I get so tired of the whir of our nebulizer. I have spent countless hours, countless minutes, getting a secondhand inhalation of albuterol. Of course, the need to apply the treatment only comes in the wee hours. My 3 year old thrashes in bed, uncomfortable from what the doctors have deemed “a sensitive respiratory system.”
Hot and sweaty, smelling like mushrooms picked in a forest in the heat of the summer, I cradle him in my lap. As he sobs, I whisper soothing nothings as I squirt a dose into the receptacle. In the dark I pop, twist, place, and pull.
Always, I whisper stories. To cool him down, to stop the crying, to stay in the night, I whisper stories.
My stories are never original. None of these midnight stories are from my own imagination or family tapestry. They are regurgitations of chapter books, Disney stories, or movies. Two in the morning is not, it turns out, my time to be creative.
One such weary night my oldest and I had just finished reading J.M. Barrie’s original Peter Pan. The story was fresh and that is what I started sharing with my 3 year old.
I told him of Tick Tock Croc, of Captain Hook’s nefarious deeds, of Mr. Smee’s antics, and the lives of the Lost Boys.
His little head dropped against my beating heart and I thought he was asleep.
The whir stopped as I removed the machine to move him to bed.
“Mom,” came the sugary whisper. “I want to go to Neverland.”
In that moment I looked for his shadow and my heart thickened.
NO. No, you must not leave me.
Much of my life is commanded by that feeling: you must not leave me.
I raise my children with the intention of making them independent but my soul cries: you must never leave me.
In the beginning, when we discovered in the ultrasound room this bundle of heat in my lap was a boy, I told the ultrasound technician that I was worried. Boys leave. Girls come back, boys leave. And I didn’t want my children to leave. Ever.
How did the Lost Boys’ mothers feel?
What few people know, what Disney left out of his movie, is that when the children left for Neverland time continued in London.
Mrs. Darling (Wendy, John, and Michael’s mother) spent days empty, refusing to close the window to the nursery. She was confident that one day her children would fly back to her but she couldn’t be sure when. She wearily waited by the open window for weeks. She didn’t want her sons and daughter to return home to a closed window.
I want my children to have adventures, but I want them to fly back.
In the epic tug of parenting we throw our children in to flight, asking them to draw higher than we ever could, to go to lands we’ve never seen. Then we reel them back in, grip them tightly, and whisper, “Oh please, oh please, come back.”
I am, indeed, very much done with late night nebulizer treatments. But I will never in my life want to let go of that chin tucked in to my heart, that hand half the size of mine cupped around my finger, and that little breath asking me where he can go.
“I want to fly, Mom. I want to be Peter Pan.”
Oh, my heart. I want my sons to fly, but I can’t bear the thought that I am giving them wings that will fly them away from me.
And so, in the middle of the night, he continues, “I want to go to Neverland.”
I choke back tears, scoop him in even closer, and whisper back, “Of course you can. Just be sure to come back some day. I will leave the window open.”