And so begins the wind down ritual most nights.
“Open your mouth,” I say. “Let me see if there is a big yawn inside.”
Sam opens wide. A yawn big enough to engulf the entire room emerges.
“Wow. That is a really big yawn,” I observe. “You must be very tired.”
That response signals the start of another word volley with a quick, staccato rhythm:
I take a different approach. “Look outside. What do you see?”
Sam responds, “Nighttime.”
Smiling I ask, “And what do you do when it is nighttime?”
“Sleep” he responds, yawning again. His yawns are contagious. I yawn, too. Sam smiles up at me observing, “Mommy is very tired.”
“Yes,” I acknowledge.
“Turn off the laptop, please,” I direct.
Within a moment or three or four, he complies.
“Thank you!” I compliment lavishly. “You are such a good listener! I will put it on your bureau for you tomorrow.”
I feel his eyes watch as I tuck the laptop up high on his bureau.
“Shall I stay or go?” I ask.
Firmly he says, "Go."
Once upon a time the answer would have been “stay” but like most teens, he pulls away. Because I have lingered a moment, he punctuates with second "Go." I leave, briefly saddened at the banishment but happy at the appropriateness.
The house grows quiet.
Later I wake, confused from sleep, sensing someone at my side. I squint up at Sam as he begins to pull my hand.
“Laptop?” he asks.
I glance over at the clock. 3:17 AM. “No,” I respond, “it is still nighttime. Go back to bed.”
Many nights he returns to his room and falls back to sleep. Tonight sleep eludes. I hear the TV softly in his room. Sam returns at 3:28 and then again at 3:42.
“Laptop?” he asks hopefully each time.
But it isn’t the laptop he wants. He lacks the words to express the trouble. Is it heartburn? A bad dream? Does he even dream? He has never been able to tell me.
I give him two Tums hoping it will help. He looks at me imploringly.
“Do you want me to come with you?” I ask.
“Yes. Yes, come.” He suddenly looks so very young despite the football player build of his 6’1” frame.
Sam lays his head on my shoulder as I sit on his bed. I hold him tightly.
“Squeeze him,” he demands, “squeeze him tight.”
I wrap my arms around him more tightly. It calms him. I feel his body relax.
Have the Tums kicked in or is it simply the calming touch of another person? I don’t know.
“Roll over,” he abruptly announces, the signal for me to release my grip. I wait as his breathing slows into a sleep rhythm, carefully pulling the comforter up. I admire the innocence of his sleep before slipping quietly back to my room.
Hoping to sleep I glimpse the very beginnings of dawn out my window. I put my head down. All too quickly the alarm rings, signaling the beginning of another day.