My son’s room plays nature sounds at night: the chirping of treefrogs, the rustling of river and wind. Sometimes chimes are played. The planets of the Solar System hover above. A nightlight in the corner casts delicate shadows on the blue walls punctuated with glowing stars. An assortment of art prints is displayed on the wall under track lights: Matisse, Picasso, Monet. Cars and puzzles and stuffed animals co-exist peacefully. I never want to leave.
Every night after his shower, Sunboy and I snuggle in his bed and read stories. We read either three books or three chapters of books depending on what he wants to do. Years ago, we decided we needed a set amount of reading each night because Sunboy would read all night if left to his own schedule. And a growing boy needs sleep.
We have an audience of stuffed animals who share our books with us. We read and giggle. We listen to the night’s sounds. It feels like a slumber party.
When there are visitors, we listen to the grown-ups talking downstairs. I feel like one of the children of the house listening to their muddled, cryptic conversation. We trust they know what they’re talking about, even if we don’t. The machinations of adults.
Like me, he prefers his covers disheveled and wrapped about him in unexpected ways. A bed with straightened covers feels unfamiliar and less inviting. Comfort by its nature is irregular, imperfect. He positions himself with a large gray elephant named Nelly and a (boy) hippo named Cinderella. Per his request, I wrap him in the “Sunboy sized” green fleece blanket, followed by a mid-sized Lightning McQueen fleece blanket, and finally a train comforter. After I have him tucked in as he wishes, he rumples the covers.
Then we talk for a few minutes. We pray and reflect on the good and bad in our day. The questions begin. Why do planets have gravity? What does time mean? Why do only starfish and lizards grow back parts of themselves? Is God made of atoms? I love his questions. It’s one of the favorite parts of my day but it takes the remainder of my energy to answer his wonderfully involved questions at this late hour. Finally, I say, “last question”. By the time I finish answering it, we are half-asleep. His room is peaceful, hypnotic, lulling. We’ve been listening to his nature sounds and watching the Solar System hover above me the entire time we’ve been talking.
I wrap my arm around the bulky pile of him, blankets and stuffed animals. He’s so warm, just as he’s always been. My little furnace. He closes his eyes. I hold my little boy close, feeling his small body give over to sleep as his breath deepens. My heart swoons with love for him. Quietly holding him for this long is a treat at his active age. Soon he is asleep. Many times I fall asleep too, and my husband must retrieve me.
Sunboy sleeps as deeply as I do. Once he is asleep, he can be moved and positioned if desired without waking him. He inherited my amazing sleep genes. I can sleep motionless, positioned on one ear the entire night such that my ear hurts from the consistent weight of my head the next morning. My extreme stillness when I sleep concerned my husband in the early days. He said he had to make sure I was breathing. Now when I check on the children before I go to bed, I am amazed at how absolutely still Sunboy is while sleeping.
The next morning, I awaken to Sunboy crawling on me to give me big, good morning body-hug. Often he begins to tell me a story mid-sentence, or maybe I just don’t hear the first few words. Thankfully, he likes to sleep a little late for his age, just like me.