Dear little man,
Last night, I tip-toed into your room to turn off the lamp. There you lay in blissful sleep, Nana Mouskouri crooning in your ear, Winnie the Pooh snuggled under your arm. I paused for a minute to ruffle your hair, and remembered the half-baked promise I had made to come and tuck you in later. Whatever I was doing seemed more important than spending some time with you. My intentions were good, but all too soon you were fast asleep.
I sat in that big old rocker by your bed, and recalled the way you bounded into the kitchen each morning, bright-eyed and bursting with life while I was being jump-started on caffeine.
“Good morning, Mommy!” you sang, forgiving of broken promises, accepting of anything thrown your way. Breakfast was a jumble of Be careful. Don't spill the milk. Put your plate in the sink. Brush your teeth. Get your school bag. Hurry up, find your jacket. No, not THAT T-shirt! Where's your other shoe?—will you ever learn to tie them? Of COURSE, I like you!
A quick peck on the cheek, and you were gone, trudging off to the bus stop, dawdling, kicking stones, looking forward to seeing your classmates. I wish I hadn't hollered so much during those chaotic breakfast hours.
The day would pass quickly, and once again you stood on the doorstep, anxious to tell me stories of your school day. So often, I brushed those stories away with an impatient reminder for you to empty your bag and change runners. I half heard you say you liked your new teacher, but I forgot to tell you I was glad of that. Supper was uppermost in my mind, I guess. I recall the time I stomped outside and humiliated you in front of your little friends, something about getting dirty in the sand pile. How pathetic! A child not being able to get dirty at play? They write books about ballistic moms like me. Still you grinned all the way through supper, and shared more stories with me.
Bath time was one jumble of don't splash water on the floor—wash your hair—hang up your towels—put your underwear in the hamper and on and on. I heard you rummaging in your dresser for pajamas, then a timid knock at my door.
“Aren't you going to tuck me in?” you asked.
I sighed and turned around as you flew into my lap and planted a sloppy, little-boy kiss on my forehead. A whispered goodnight and you padded off to your room, dragging old Pooh. I continued whittling down my paperwork backlog, meaning to come and tuck you in before you fell asleep, but I didn't. Not last night, nor many nights before that.
So here I sit looking at you, feeling terrible, missing the way I used to read you to sleep, vowing that tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow, I will listen with every fibre of my being to your stories. I will hang on to every sparkling smile that comes my way. I will giggle with you as you show me how high your frog can jump, and it lands in the toilet. I will sniffle with you as you complain about the inequities of playground friendships. Yessirree, son. Tomorrow, I will be back on track for you.
Tonight, I've realized that your childhood is far too fleeting to elbow aside in the name of Important Work. YOU are my important work. Please forgive me , little man, I'll do better tomorrow.