Don’t be afraid of what you don’t understand.
Easier said than done, of course, but this is my husband and I’s go-to advice for our three-year-old son when we know storms are imminent.
Two nights ago, however, we were no match for the incessant thunder and lightning.
At approximately 3:45 a.m. we awoke to my son’s tearful pleas: “Mommy! Daddy!” There was something different in my son’s voice this time – a blend of emerging maturity and raw fear. He sensed what was happening, yet couldn’t prevent himself from the human desire for certainty…and control.
I led my oldest child down the ladder as Mother Nature illuminated his small room with urgent pulses of white. The night’s antidote would be snuggles with Momma in the bottom bunk.
And, in that 10-minute embrace, shadows weren’t the only images that danced across his walls.
In Riding in Cars with Boys, Drew Barrymore’s character states:
One day can change your life. One day can ruin your life. All life is is three or four big days that change everything.
With my son nestled close, I considered how my own life had evolved right there in that bottom bed.
To be transparent, the bunk bed is no stranger to our family – it belonged to my husband’s childhood. In fact, we began dating before his parents removed it from the bedroom of his youth. Upon seeing it for the first time, I remember thinking: Ah, arrested development.
But then my husband invited me to lay with him – fully clothed. On that well-worn mattress, we pondered the invisible constellations of our own future. The next day we attended his sister’s wedding, the last familial vows exchanged before our own.
But my husband is full of surprises – sometimes of the emotional variety. After our wedding, my in-laws quietly replaced my husband’s trusty bed with their old double. I rejoiced in the switch, but my partner was still letting go of everything that marriage changes.
On our first night in the new-to-us bed, which happened to be during our first married holiday season, my husband ran to his closet. “I have something for you,” he promised.
Beneath incredibly loud and wrinkled plastic, my fingers unwrapped a lush scarf that my husband had purchased for his future wife back in 2005 during a summer teaching English in Nepal. Four years later, the bag’s seal had finally been broken…and I was granted that honor. Since then, I have worn this gift for only one occasion: my husband’s PhD celebration.
I still melt when it catches my eye in our closet – sage green, the color of our wedding cake.
“Okay, sweetheart, I have to teach in four hours. Let’s climb back to the top.” Sentimentality had given way to reality.
My little boy – ever the compliant child – agreed in sweet, mostly coherent toddler speech. I placed his plastic lantern on the top bunk and dodged piles of Matchbox cars on my path to the door.
“I love you.”
It was a moment that captured the fleeting nature of motherhood. Tomorrow, my heart knew, I would be less of a rockstar in his eyes – he would need me differently in the years to come. I remembered the very first night he slept on the bottom bunk we had momentarily shared.
He didn’t wake up a single time.