He's so handsome. I think he is. He is so good, too. GOOD. He has always wanted to do the right thing. The obedient thing. He has so many questions. Questions of which I stumble in the answering.
The girls were all tucked in. It was 7:36 or so and Avery seemed to have fallen asleep to the quiet chatter of her older sisters. They've learned that keeping their voices down upstairs means they'll keep the mama downstairs. I marveled at the easiness of it. Getting them in bed. There were a few weak protests quickly drowned out by requests for goodnight kisses--the best kind.
I walk out not quite shutting the door completely behind me and take the long walk down the stairs. Dread filled my chest. I turned the corner through the kitchen and the laundry room switching off lights that were brightening rooms for no one. I leaned into his doorframe, familiar now with it's knobby spine in my arm. It is here that we battle each night.
I effortfully spread sweetness all over my face letting it drip into my voice, "Seth! Guess what time it is?" His whole 7-and-a-half-year-old frame sinks. "Time for bed! Hop! Hop!" The inevitable (and anticipated) protest plus plead comes. It is always different.
But I'm not finished with this track.
I just want to set up the rest of these dominoes.
I'm not tired.
But I'm starving!
I don't want to go to bed.
"Okay, I'll set the timer for 5 minutes then right to bed, okay?"
The five minutes passes slowly and quickly. It is never enough to ease him calmly into the covers. Nothing would ever be enough. Then it begins.
A slow watering of the eyes, giving them a good soak. This breaks my heart but I am also instantly angry because it is the same each night. Then breathtaking tears, many hand flops into his blankets. Laying down and sitting up.
He is full of anxiety for this everyday event. His explanation holds its own. He doesn't have the answers, only the questions. I hate going to bed. It is so boring just laying here waiting to fall asleep. Why can't I be asleep right when I lay down? Why do I get frustrated? I don't know how to stop crying. This is the worst part of my life. Why can't I just learn to do this?
I sit beside him. I lay next to him. I hold him. Or hug him. Once, I stomped a foot. I stand listening and answering. The same listening and answering from yesterday and the day before that and all week long. So much the same that the sameness of it forms a rock in my throat that I refuse to burst. Because no one needs to add more tears to this watery bedtime.
I am getting better at the answers. Using the words that make them up to "low" and "gentle" my voice instead of raise and fan his flames.
The ache comes after private tears in another room. Sitting by the lamp. Or the glow of my screen like now. An ache at his pain. Questions fill our lives. Everything has its opposite. Full and hungry. Soft or angry. Frustrated or placated. Happy and sad. After all his, I only have one left. One question.
How do I teach someone else to choose to be happy?