Dutifully, I climbed out of bed and shuffled the few steps that ran in between our room and our older son's. Oh, how many times I had walked into his room in the middle of the night!
As I stood in the doorway looking into the face of our growing 11-year-old son, for a moment, the faces of yesteryear flashed before me. But for a second, in my mind's eye, I greeted the infant, the two-year-old, the pre-schooler and early-grade schooler, too. Life is different now yet still the same.
Tonight, I greeted our son, who reached out to me when he saw me.
"Hello!" I said to him. I crossed the room and approached his bed.
"Potty," he told me.
At eleven, he is not night time toiled trained.
At eleven, he still wears a diaper to bed.
At eleven, he is still not independent in the bathroom.
He looked me in the eyes, smiled and held out his hand. At eleven, he does this with regularity, however, it is not something he did in his younger years. Reaching out to me, something I wanted desperately for him to do when he was a mushy ball of a slobbery baby. I wanted him to coo, to squeal with delight when I walked near him. I wanted him to instantly reach out to me so that I would swoop him into my arms for a hug.
Our baby never did that--nor did our toddler, preschooler, kindergartener or early-gradeschooler.
That night, our son placed his hand in mine, and we walked together to the bathroom. I was tired. I situated him where he needed to be, and, as he took care of his business, I sat down on the edge of the tub. I stared at the wall, looking at nothing in particular and letting my mind wander.
How does a mother explain what it feels like to have never had her child grab her hand, look her squarely in the eye or assign her a name? Oh, sure, we learn to move on. We learn to work with what we are given. We all say that it is okay. But, the truth is that we all want it. We feel the void in our hearts.
I was given the gift of my name by our older son two years ago when he was nine. Shortly thereafter, he started holding my hand, reaching for me and kissing me with true love. The contact had to be on his terms. I was never allowed to initiate it or I would scare him away. However, I welcomed it always.
Finally, finally, our son was coming home to me!
I was shaken back to reality by the sound of our son flushing the toilet. With the bathroom duties soon complete, I turned to guide our Big Guy out of the room, but he stopped me and gestured for me to sit back down on my perch at the side of the tub. For a moment, he held my cheeks in his hands, studied my face and smiled.
"Hi, baby," I said, returning his smile. Our eye contact was a gift.
Then, he crawled into my lap, this child who is just shy of five feet tall. Somehow, he curled himself up just like a little boy in his mom's lap. He wrapped his arms around me as he placed his head on my shoulder and buried his face in my neck.
He hugged me.
The entire gesture from position to act was his and his alone. A first. Yet, there he was, this child of ours who was unable to show love for the first many years of his life no matter how I yearned. There he was curling his giant body on my lap with his head on my shoulder so that we could hug.
I didn't care how big he was, I'd waited too long for this. My lap would take him as long as he wanted it. And, I would sit on the edge of that tub in the dead of night for as long as my child asked it of me.
This hug, this act of love from our child, a decade in the making, was priceless. No, I wasn't going anywhere.