I sat in my usual spot, in the middle of the queen bed. This is where they want me to be at, every single night, as they fall asleep with some form of physical contact with my body. Sometimes it’s a leg strewn artfully over mine, sometimes it’s them tucking their heads under the curve where my arm meets my shoulder.
Tonight, they did not take too long to fall asleep for it was later than their usual bedtime. The exams are over and we are getting lax when it comes to routines. After a while, when there was no movement or sound, save for their breathing, I deduced that they were truly sleeping and started to extricate myself from the tangle of human limbs.
Then a little voice piped up, “Are you leaving?”
I smiled in the darkness at my ten-year-old. “No, I am not,” I whispered.
He took my hand and turned on his side, effectively forcing me to spoon him from the back. And so we laid like this for a while, him still holding on to my hand as he drifted off into dreamland.
“I love you,” I said quietly into his ear. He stirred a teeny tiny bit, before mumbling, “I love you too.”
He didn’t let go of my hand and I marvelled at my son, who is on the cusp of becoming a young man and is still a child in so many ways. Wasn’t it not too long ago that we celebrated his 10th birthday?
Right now, we are still the centre of his universe but it is a world that is slowly expanding. He is starting to become more aware of his self. He is beginning to form connections with others; he moaned about not being able to go to school to spend time with his friends when he was ill earlier in the week. He has his own mind and opinions, and is vocal and confident in articulating them.
He still kisses me, but not too many times. And when we go out, he will still hold my hand, but for 10 seconds. After which, he will subconsciously flow into the direction that he wants to go, leaving me behind.
It’s a good thing, for our job as parents is to raise our kids to have the self-assurance to take on the world by themselves. Eventually, his sense of identity and space will grow and grow, and we will be knocked off our perch from the centre by the torrents of time. And it’s a good thing, it is exactly how it is meant to happen.
It’s also a bittersweet thing.
I suppose that’s why we have more than one child. So that as the older one starts to grow into his own, we learn our lesson well enough to treasure and mentally file away the baby moments that we still get from the younger. The littlest cannot fathom a life without us, and he still wants to hang out with us as often as he can. He holds my hand and asks to sit on my lap. And so I indulge him, knowing that these requests are going to fade away sooner than later.
But I may be premature in declaring that the childlike days of my 10-year-old are over. The other day, I was working from home after being in the office for weeks. He was home too, for he had caught a cold. He came into the study and leaned into my chair to hug me.
“Thank you for making me feel better,” I said. “I guess you are too big to fit into my lap these days.”
He grinned cheekily and spun around, backing into me as he finally sat his bum on my lap.
“See, I can still fit perfectly on your lap.”
We sat like this, my arm around his waist, his hands over mine, for just a moment. I breathed in the scent of this beautiful boy, and felt a sense of gratitude for his presence in my life. It didn’t last very long – he bounced off to play Roblox with his friends – but it was enough.