Late Night Texts

My eleven year old was sick a few weeks ago. He had gone to his bed with a slight fever and a big metal barf bowl that I put in his hands as he started down the stairs to his room. Before I went to bed I filled a sports bottle with ice water and grabbed some Tylenol and went down to check on him.

As I walked into his dark room that had a faint smell of sickness, he rolled towards me and squinted at the light coming from the hall.

“I brought you some medicine and ice water, bud, so I need you to sit up for a minute.”

He sat up with exaggerated weakness and took the medicine I gave him and sipped some water.

“Will you lay by me for a minute, Mom?” he asked.

He scooted over while I lifted his comforter and slipped in next to him. He wasn’t miserably sick, but his low grade fever quickly warmed me as I wrapped him up in my arms and we lay there and chatted some, but mostly enjoyed the silence and peace that came with being together without the distraction of electronics or homework or siblings or rush.

Fifteen minutes later the risk of falling asleep myself became too great and I tried to slip away unnoticed. His breathing had slowed and I thought he was sleeping.

“Thank you for bringing me water and laying by me Mom. I love you.”

I reached the sliver of light at the door and turned and told him I loved him too and then went to bed.

The next morning he was miraculously better and I didn’t think much about the night before.

That night about an hour after I sent him to bed I got a text:

Mom. Will you fill my water bottle and come tuck me in?

It had, sadly, been awhile since I had regularly tucked him in at night and he is very consistent about filling his own water bottle before going to bed so I was surprised, but I filled it and took it down to him. I tucked him in and rubbed his back for a few minutes before going back upstairs.

A few days later I get the same text:

Mom. Will you fill my water bottle and come tuck me in?

This time I questioned him:

Why didn’t you do it before you went down?

I forgot and I am really tired. Pleeeease?

Okay. I filled it and took it down and sat with him for a few minutes.

The next few of weeks I got similar texts every couple of days. Now I was starting to feel taken advantage of. His habit of washing and filling his water bottle each night had turned into him texting and asking me to to do it for him more often than not. Sometimes I was home and did it and sometimes I was at the grocery store or visiting my parents and he had to get out of bed and do it himself. Sometimes I was home, but busy, and made him come up and do it.

Then I had a moment of clarity. He had texted me one night while I was out and I told him I was not there to do it. He told me he would wait and I could do it when I got home.

I got home much later than I thought and I decided to fill it anyways and take it down to him in case he woke up in the night.

I walked in his room and the hall light fell on the bundle of comforter and boy that was lying still on his bed. His breathing was even and he didn’t budge by the sound of the door or the light that invaded his pitch dark basement room. I set down his water bottle on his dresser and gently sat on the edge of his bed and stroked his hair softly enough to not wake him.

I realized he hadn’t broken his habit of filling his water bottle and he had not started taking advantage of me by asking me to do it. He had found a way to find a few quiet personal moments with me at the end of our busy days. I felt regret for not making it home before he fell asleep as I kissed his sweaty cheek goodnight and whispered “I love you” into his ear before leaving him to his dreams.

I would love to say that I have tucked him into bed each night since then. I haven’t. But I have tucked him in more often that I had and I am trying to find those moments to connect and give him my undivided attention more often throughout the day so he doesn’t feel a deficit when he goes to bed.

I know I miss a lot of signals from my kids, but I am always filled with gratitude when I pause long enough to get their subtle messages.

 

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