I’ve had this idea for a slice I want to write about mornings. I’ve started it a few times now. It’s supposed to be an easy piece that captures my favorite moment of the day. Brief. Sweet. The words need to skip across the page. Float. I see the piece like a butterfly, fluttering, airy, light. But instead, every time I sit down to write I feel heavy. The words are mud. Concrete. I’ve got a sledgehammer and I’m trying to batter and beat the piece into shape. I give up again and again. Why can’t I get this to work?
There’s not much of a plot to the story. My son sleeps on the couch in the living room most nights, and he likes for me to come sit next to him in the morning after I wake up. He spends a couple of hours drifting between waking and sleeping, and I sit beside him, catching up on blogs, writing, scrolling through Facebook, reading on my Kindle app. He wakes up a couple of dozen times most mornings, and every time he wakes, he reaches out for me. Sometimes with his breath. He inhales sharply, I press my hand to his back, he settles right back into sleep. Sometimes with his voice. I love you, he mumbles. Do you love me? Sometimes with his eyes. Blurry and unfocused from sleep, they open and I can see panic. But as soon as he sees me sitting here, just where I said I’d be, he closes them, smiles, relaxes. Sometimes with his arms. He spreads them wide for a hug and I hold him until his breath evens out again. Sometimes with his face. He lifts his cheek for a kiss, stretches his neck so that I will kiss that sweet spot behind his ear, then he rests his head, asleep again.
I keep telling myself this is a lighter story than most of my parenting stories. There’s no fight in my son in the mornings. He’s open, vulnerable, trusting, oh so sweet. In the mornings, he’s my baby.
But there is always bitter laced with the sweet. The foundation of this love is the deepest loss, and even in our happiest moments, it’s impossible to forget that. Perhaps that’s what keeps weighing me down as I try to write this slice.
It’s still a story about fear, because that’s why he wants me here. He wakes up afraid that I’m gone, that he’s alone, and he can’t go back to sleep until he knows I’m here.
It’s a story about courage and bravery, because it takes courage to be so vulnerable and open. But it makes me profoundly sad that my son needs so much courage and bravery to love again.
Always, it’s a story about loss.
Some days, the morning holds, and he spends the day in a good place, accepting that he loves, that he is loved.
But more often, he is fighting mad by the time he is fully awake, so profoundly saddened and overwhelmed by all that he has lost that the only way to live through the day is to be mad, mad, mad at everyone and everything.
And there is another kind of loss. This may be the last night he sleeps on the couch, the last morning he wants me by his side as he wakes and sleeps. This is the part of motherhood I really can’t get a handle on: loving so fiercely and intensely, knowing that I will have to let go.
It’s the part he can’t get a handle on either. Several times a week I hear this: “I’ll be 18 in six years. I will have to leave you. I don’t know if I can.” It’s one of the main reasons he tries to talk himself out of loving: leaving hurts too much.
But here’s the thing about mornings. We aren’t thinking about any of those things. He is asleep, mostly. And I am listening to his breath, attentive and attuned to the ways he will reach out to me.
I used to think I loved mornings because they were about hope, new starts, new possibilities. But really, mornings are a time when hope isn’t necessary because we already have everything we need. We are full, complete in the moment.