Watching Him Sleep

Jen Waldref essays

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Right now, right this very minute, there is a beautiful 6-year-old boy asleep next to me. The sound of my fingers tap-dancing on the keyboard does not disturb his slumber. He is so perfect; such a work of art. I find myself staring at him for long periods of time in awe, finding it hard to believe that he comes from me. He certainly doesn't look like me. The fair skin, the dirty blond hair, the blue eyes behind closed eyelids. If I didn't know better, if I didn't still have the memory of those 12 hours of labor forever etched in my brain, I'd be convinced that he was somebody else's. He's too perfect to be mine.

My mistakes have hurt this child. And continue to do so, day after day after day. Yet, he wouldn't even exist if I hadn't made one of my mistakes  So, was it really a mistake then? I look at him, and I think not.

If I could go back and do it all over again, I'd make all the same choices. It’s the only way to end up with the two children that I have. I could go back a 100 times, and I'd still do the same things, because these children were meant to be.

I am not sorry. I have no regrets. Some of my girlfriends don't yet have children, and want them very much, and they’re afraid they won't have them because the clock is ticking and we're all getting older.

I never even heard that ticking.

Of course I get frustrated. The other day when I was having a goodbye drink with a friend before he left for Morocco, and I got this pang. I wanted to go to Morocco too. But I can't. I want to go to New Zealand. I want to go to Burning Man.

But I can't.

And then something like this happens: One of them can't sleep, and stumbles his way into my room and into my bed. In a half-dreaming state he murmurs, “Mommy…”

His arms reach out for me. I pull him close and whisper in his ear, “I'm here. Mommy's here. Go to sleep.”

A small, contented sigh escapes from deep within his little body, and soon he's breathing deeply and rhythmically again. And I want to stay like that, my arms wrapped around him and my face buried in the back of his freshly-shampooed head, forever and ever. He thinks that he's safe with me, that I protect him from the monsters in the dark.

But really, it's the other way around.  


About the Author

Jen Waldref

Jen Waldref is a professional speech writer, former journalist, and proud mama to three sons. She recently rediscovered her creative writing muse while attending the Write: Doe Bay conference. Jen lives with her family in Washington state, and is currently working on her first novel.

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January 2015 – live & learn
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