Friday, July 31, 2009

An Elephant Sat on My Chest All Night

A certain little boy in our neighborhood celebrated his birthday last night by having a back-yard camp-out for all his pals on the block. Bean's one of his pals. We've always called this boy Baby Kevin because until Peabody came along, he was the youngest among the droves of children who play together just about every day around here, although he just got himself promoted to big brother status a couple of months ago, so he, as he himself is quick to point out whenever the opportunity presents itself, IS NOT A BABY!

But apparently I am.

Because the camp-out last night about brought me to my knees, people. I'm sittin' here at my kitchen counter this morning, listening to Peabody systematically rip apart everything on the main level of the house (only because that's the only level he can get to right now) (lately Peabody's name is MUD -- Mobile Unit of Destruction). Anyway I hear him over there in the pantry feverishly crinkling and shredding up all the paper napkins like a Mama gerbil about to whelp, or whatever gerbils do to produce those eraser-babies of theirs, and THAT IS ALL THAT I HEAR. I do not hear Marfa Speaks. I do not hear a little chipmunky voice sayin' Mamaaaaaa? Can I have my hot cocoa? Can I have my vitamins? Mamaaaaaaaa! Peabody's playin' in the potty! Mamaaaaa, look at this! Look what I made!

For the first morning ever, except for the three times I've left her with Nana because I've HAD TO, I didn't wake up to my sleepy girl climbing into my bed and throwing a little tiny leg and a little tiny arm over me and yawning in my face before happily plugging her two middle fingers into her mouth and scootchin' up real tight for our morning snuggle. AND IT'S PRETTY DARNED EMPTY WITHOUT ALL THAT, PEOPLE.

Al and I went to the party last night, too. All the Moms and Dads attended, ate yummy camp-out food, drank a little, chatted and laughed and watched Baby Kevin (Whoops, there I go again!) open his presents. And then Mr. Adem set up a big old screen right out there in the back yard, in front of the faery-light encrusted play set, and the kids all settled down and lay on the grass under the stars to watch a movie. I could just make out the top of Bean's little head as it stuck out from under a cozy fleece throw.

It's funny how a mother knows her own daughter so well she can tell how she's feeling and what she's thinking just by looking at the top of her head. Didn't even need to see her face. I just knew by the way that fuzzy little noggin looked resting on that pillow.

My Bean was in Kid Heaven.

So I went and gathered up her new red sleeping bag, and I carefully unrolled it inside The Girls Tent, and I unrolled it some more, and I smoothed it out, and I unzipped it and folded a corner back, and then I zipped it back up and smoothed it out again, and pulled at the end to make sure it lined up perfectly parallel to the side of the tent, and then I unzipped a little bit of it again and folded the corner back down. Up, down, folded, unfolded?! (Hyperventilate.)

And then I had this prolonged debate in my head over the extra blanket I'd brought. HER blanket. Should I lay it out flat inside the sleeping bag or fold it at the bottom on the outside? Would she get cold and not know to just pull it up over herself, or if I went ahead and put it INSIDE the bag would she get hot and tangled up and be miserable and not be able to free herself, awkward and alone, there in the dark, without me? (Hyperventilate.)

And then finally I just sat there, inside that stupid tent, with that stupid sleeping bag and that dumb blanket, and I had myself a good old-fashioned internal truth-facing melt-down. MY BABY'S GOING TO SLEEP IN THIS TENT TONIGHT. AND SHE'S GOING TO BE FINE AND HAPPY AND DELIGHTED AND NOT MISS ME AT ALL. AND THAT'S WONDERFUL.


And then I sat back on my heels, took a deep, shuddering breath, and resolutely put the blanket inside the sleeping bag, zipped it up, and forced myself to climb back out of that tent. I said goodnight to my little girl, who payed absolutely NO attention to my brimming tears and didn't even hear the weirdness in my voice caused by the armadillo-sized lump in my throat, and I kissed her cheek, and I kissed Teddy's ear, okay both ears, okay both ears twice and I walked away.

When we got home, Al and I quietly went about our normal nightly pre-bed routine. But I left the little lamp in her room on all night long. Nothing could have made me turn that lamp off. It stayed on, a warm, soft glow, ready and waiting for my daughter -- my heart -- all night long.

And I turned the ringer on the phone up RILLYRILLY LOUD. And put it on the bedside table RIGHT NEXT TO MY EAR.

And I lay there most of the night willing that phone to RING, DAMMIT.


Well, the sun crept ever-closer to the horizon, and just as I knew deep in my heart that it wouldn't, the phone never rang. And I got out of my bed as soon as it was light and looked out the window, across the street and down two houses, to where my first-born baby lay asleep in a sleeping bag, in a tent, on the ground, without me.

Gradually, daylight spread like melted butter over and around both of us, her happily waking up beside her friends down the block and me puttering around my kitchen with Peabody at my feet, and among all the conflicting maternal angst and pride and that sense of everything slipping by way too quickly, I knew one thing.

We'd both made it.

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  1. You are such a good writer! What a beautiful post and SO TRUE. You and Bean and Peabody and Al make my heart smile.

  2. You described exactly how I felt the first time my oldest ever stayed the night with a friend! It's hard to let them grow up, isn't it!?

    I'm glad you made it through!

  3. This has me in tears as i know the days are coming soon for my boys to head off to sleep overs and camp outs and i am so not ready to let that far go yet.

    I know it is part of life and they grow and become independent but what about ME! I am not ready and alas it is coming!

  4. To think that this morning I was complaining about how clingy Princess is, how I would love for her to be more independent like not needing snuggles after her story at bedtime. For her to fall back asleep by herself in the middle of the night instead of coming down to our room and waking me up a mere 20 minutes after I fell asleep after feeding her little brother.

    I know I'll be very sad when she says "Mommy, I don't need/want you to snuggle me tonight." This was the perfect reminder for me. Thanks!

  5. Rough night... I completely understand. My oldest is eight and I still get sad when he sleeps at a friends!!

  6. Oh, I so understand where you were. My oldest (12 yr old boy) stayed in the "barracks" in Cooperstown this summer for a week while he played baseball. We were there, in a house 15 miles away. He'd never been away to camp or anything. I thought I was gonna die worrying about him. After I set up his bunk he came over, gave me a sideways hug (cause that's what 12 yr old boys do) and promptly pushed me out the door. My heart broke and swelled with pride at the same time!!! He survived, I survived. So glad you and Bean survived too!!!

  7. Good for you! You are going to be just fine! Bean's going to get you trained yet. :)

  8. What a tearjerker of a post! I know what you mean - I've been there. Congrats to you both - you are both growing up!

  9. Welcome back :) Great post! Megan at her best with a delightful story full of word pictures :) I love it when you write like this :) Enjoy the ride .... your journey is just beginning :)

  10. I must still be a little hormonal, cause you got me all weepy. The thought of my Girlie - who will be 3 in September - going on to do Big Kid Things very soon...

    I've got to go read something else, or I'm going to snatch her up & squeeze her & start singing, "Sunrise, Sunset."

  11. She had a great time and in the morning I could tell she was missing her hot cocoa and her mama!!!! I tucked them all in and she made a request for a story. So we all read a story and I tucked them all in and put several more blankets on all the girls! Alex enjoyed donuts and lemonade for breakfast....not what I had planned they would have but I went with the majority and let the kids be in charge just this one time!! I am glad that you made it through the night. We loved having Alex she is a WONDERFUL KID! We will have to have a girlie sleepover with little Emma and Big Emma at our house before the summer is over. So that they do not get swept up in the craziness of all the kids.


  12. I could feel every tug of your heart in this post, Megan.

    For the record, my husband has decreed that our kids aren't doing sleepovers until they are 10. He says it's because he's heard too many horror stories about unsupervised kids. I think it's also because he doesn't want them to go.

  13. I TOTALLY get how you felt....V has never spent the night at anyone's house other than family (and she's 8 but that's partly because she has a really hard time going to sleep) but I am the mom who cried over her child's PBJ last year at the beginning of school because it was the first year she wouldn't be going to the school where I teach. I am glad you both made it!

  14. is sad and happy all in the same to see them growing up. So conflicting, isn't it?

  15. Oh Megan, you are just beginning down the wonderful road of learning to let go one little bit at a time. I am a few days late in reading this blog but it's because God has perfect timing! My 16 year old just left a little bit ago on her first date ever...I am feeling every one of those thoughts and then some. They are going to the county fair and she is excited and nervous...I am excited and feel like I am going to throw up! But I know she will be home in a few hours and there will be so many stories to tell. Enjoy every single one of those moments as they come...seems like yesterday we jumped the hurdle of the sleepovers :)

  16. Big hugs, mama! I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it...

  17. It's wonderful and excruciating when our kids don't need us as much anymore. xoxo

  18. You were talking today about wishing you could write like the quote you shared.

    You did.

    My eyes are full of tears remembering the first time Boo slept over, and how hard it was.

    You are such a wonderful Mother.

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