While They Are Sleeping

Every night before I go to sleep, no matter how exhausted I am, I tiptoe down the hall to check in on my two sleeping sons.  I tell myself I'm just making sure that Craig is covered, so he won't wake up cold during the night.  I'll just turn off the fan that Jamie likes to have on while he falls asleep.  In truth though, my boys are old enough that they don't really require a middle of the night check.  I just like to look at them, to stare at them in awe and admiration.

Other than these midnight wanderings, I rarely have a chance to simply enjoy my sons.  Most of our days are filled with school and playdates, soccer practice and swimming lessons, preparing meals and cleaning up.  The days and weeks pass in a blur, and my children grow up before my eyes without my even noticing.

During the day, my brain is usually running on high gear.  My interactions with the boys are often underlayed with a running stream of thought.  Even while I'm playing with them, I'm considering what to make for dinner, or reminding myself of what we can't forget for school tomorrow, or struggling to remember how that sibling book said to handle constant quarreling.  My husband and I often feel as if too much of what we say to our sons is preceded by, "Don't", "Stop", or "No"  The days speed by in a whirlwind of activity.  I'm too distracted by reining in my sons' boundless energy and watching out for their safety to stop and just appreciate them.

It's different in the quiet of the night.  Just before I go to bed, I turn on the light in the stairway - just enough light to see by, without waking them up.  I walk quietly down the hall, sometimes even shedding my slippers on the way, so as not to make a sound that might disturb them.

I enter Craig's room silently, being extra careful not to wake our light sleeper.  In constant motion during the day, Craig has usually managed to twist around in his crib until his blankets are underneath him.  I gently cover him again, making sure he'll be warm the rest of the night (though he'll probably be on top of the covers again just moments after I leave).   I lean on the crib rail and just stare at his beautiful, innocent face.  My eyes admire those adorable round cheeks that I know he'll outgrow before long as he leaves toddlerhood behind.  His small lips look perfect in the half-light, as he quietly breathes in and out.  

Despite his light sleeping habit, I can't help myself.  I lean into the crib and gently kiss his soft cheek.  My heart swells, as I am awed by how perfect he is.

Next, I tiptoe into Jamie's room and turn off his fan.  Although he's a heavy sleeper who rarely moves during the night, I still walk over to his bed and rearrange his covers.  They don't really need to be rearranged, but I do it anyway, making sure he's well-covered, with no limbs sticking out into the cool night air.

I stare at my oldest son's face, unable to believe how quickly six years have passed.  It seems like such a short time ago that he was just a baby, and now he's learning to read, playing soccer, and growing up too quickly.  But late at night, as I look at his beautiful, peaceful face in sleep, he's still my baby, my first-born.  I admire his flawless skin, his perfect features.  

He looks so serene, so unconcerned about life's little bumps that are beginning to worry him during the daylight hours.  As he's growing older, he's becoming more aware of the frustrations and difficulties inherent in everyday life.  He's gradually losing that blissful ignorance of younger children, as they go through their days playing without a care in the world.  He's now in first grade, with responsibilities and goals to meet.

But at night, asleep, his face is peaceful and shows no sign of any cares.  Like his younger brother, he looks beautiful and perfect as I gaze at him.  I lean down and softly kiss his forehead, murmuring how much I love him.  Sometimes, he stirs in his sleep, as if acknowledging my kiss and my love.

I walk back down the hall to our own room, turning off the stair light as I go.  My husband looks up from his book and asks, "Did you check on the boys?"  "Yes," I sigh, "They're perfect."  He smiles and says, "I know.  I just checked on them a few minutes ago."

© Suzan L. Jackson, 2001
This essay was published at einkwell.com in January 2001.

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