Every morning when I walk past Austin's door to wake Noah up for school, I'm hit with a sadness, knowing I can't open his door and wake him too.
The past few years, Austin was so easy to get up for school. All it took was a small knock on his door and he was awake, ready to hit the shower. Tim and I laugh though remembering the long showers he took, sometimes over 45 minutes. We honestly think he figured out how to go back to sleep standing up! However, he never had to be reminded of the time and was always on the couch and ready to go before the bus arrived.
This wasn't always the case though. As a baby, I exposed Austin to noise while he slept. I had read somewhere that this was the best way to raise them so that sudden noises wouldn't startle them back awake. I think I took it to the extreme because Austin learned to sleep so soundly a train could have ran through his bedroom and he would have remained in dreamland! As a toddler and young child, it was very difficult to wake him and I regretted reading that book. Eventually, he learned to find a happy medium.
Going to bed was a different story. As Austin grew older, his bedtime naturally increased but he still complained and we struggled with a bedtime we could all agree on. As a mother, I wanted him to get a good night's sleep. As a teenager, he wanted to stay up late and watch tv, talk to friends, or play on the computer. We compromised with the agreement that he could go to bed within a time-frame, depending on when he grew tired, provided he never gave us trouble in the morning and kept up his grades. Sometimes, we'd have to cut him back to 10 pm but it didn't take long for him to make good on whatever was needed to allow us to extend the time again.
I guess that is a common struggle with children, no matter the age. Both Tim and I would have to tuck him in when he was little. Sometimes it required several trips to the bathroom or for a glass of milk (or whatever excuse he could think of) before he was settled. We would both kiss him goodnight, tell him we loved him and pray for his health and safety.
As a toddler, we would have to read (often the same book every night) before he would go to sleep. I didn't mind reading to him;, I read to him while he was still in the womb, but the same book night after night got old. The bad part was that Austin would memorize the book that he was currently hooked on so I couldn't rush through it or skip pages to get him to sleep quicker. He knew if I missed a word and didn't hesitate in telling me!
When he grew older, we began reading chapter books and would sometimes take turns reading. I loved listening to him read to me and imagined he might do that someday when my eyes grew to old to do so for myself. The past few years, he grew too old for Mom to read to him anymore; however, we shared books and recommended them to each other. It was fun reading the same book and then talking about things we liked afterwards.
Reading was no longer a bedtime ritual but the one thing that remained constant was a hug from him and a "Love you, Mom" before he went to sleep. Even at 14, he still came into my room each evening (because I normally went to bed before he did) to tell me goodnight. On the rare occasions when he did fall asleep before me, I would sneak into his room, kiss his forehead and watch him sleep.
It was something I did so often as a young mother. When you have a baby, I think you naturally check on them several times throughout the night. I even remember placing my hand gently above his lips, makings sure he was still breathing as an infant. As a toddler, I would sit in amazement at how peaceful and calm he was, which was nothing like when was awake! Austin was always running, always into something in his preschool age. He was sometimes more than I could keep up with; however, at night, he was this precious, calm little child, lost in sweet dreams.
In the past few years, I would stand looking down at my son and find it hard to take in how quickly he was growing. Long gone were the traces of a baby; my first born was becoming a man. When he was asleep, it was the only time I could run my hand through his jet black hair or pause at his beating heart. Awake, he would quickly brush me off, embarrassed. Signs of affection had to be on his terms, not mine!
I remember the night he passed, Tim and I alone in the hospital room with him. I had cleaned him up, not wanting to remember him with the mess a trauma can leave behind. As I ran my fingers through his hair, so shiny and black, I realized this would be the last time I watched him sleeping. In that moment, I was reminded of our nightly ritual, as I kissed him softly and told him "I Love You." Just like when he was little, Tim and I were there by his side, to tuck him in and pray for him as we watched him peacefully sleep.