Braden is sick again and that means he’s coughing in that special way that toddlers have which makes you clench up and wait for the inevitable choking sound every.single.time. Over and over again, I listen to him gag and gasp and make the phlegmy struggling sounds for breath that keep my blood pressure just a little higher than it really ought to be.
Last night he couldn’t sleep, and was pulling out one excuse after another to climb from his bed and yell down the stairs to us. His pleas for us to turn the music on, then off again, to find his toy car, and to turn on the light were all mingled with whimpers and punctuated by cries and sometimes soft, tired moans. Every request was just code for, “I need you, please come be with me, I’m feeling poorly and I just can’t be alone tonight.” Mommy is the ultimate translator – all those words and words and words, but a Mommy can see right through them. They pour off either side of the real request like oil parting and running this way and that on the surface of turbulent water.
But this night it was not just Mommy to the rescue. Often Mommy has to be the one who answers the call, who throws her hair over her shoulder and dashes off, valiantly. Mommy is so often the one who is here, so Mommy plays the heroine. But sometimes I get to fold my cape up for a beat. I write my story, I speak from my point of view. But he cuts through my view, too.
He listened to the translation of messages Mommy could hear floating down the stairs. When Mommy came down after a visit with the little sleep fighter, he heard all the things she said about little boys who are terribly unable to fall asleep because ohhh, they are just in need of togetherness and tender closeness. Mommy, who was distraught because of deadlines and projects. Mommy, who felt torn between work commitments and life priorities.
Daddy saw the worry and frustration on her tired face, and even though he had already done the bath routine and the bedtime routine, he smiled kindly, then set his face and stood up. He dashed off to go sit with the unwitting mini-villian upstairs, who was really just a little boy making too much noise for his tiny, tired body, until he could be tricked (loved) into falling comfortably asleep. He went in search of hugs and cuddles that would be stronger and more fierce than coughs and sneezes.
He answered the needs of the boy and the needs of the Mommy, all in a single bound.
I briefly saw his brightly colored cape flap at the corner of the stairwell right before he disappeared from view and I continued to tap at the keys, only momentarily wondering who that masked man was.