My son fell asleep without his stuffed monkey a few weeks ago.
This is not a particularly important milestone of childhood – I’m certainly not going to write it down in his baby book. To be honest, a part of me felt slightly relieved. If we were ever to have another “left-the-monkey-at-the-grandparents-house” incident, we would not have to have it overnighted immediately.
This wasn’t the first time, either. Last week, he slept without her for a few nights.
I only noticed because she was under our kitchen table, where he drags her most every morning to sit beside him while he eats his breakfast, in the exact same spot for a couple of days in a row. I hadn’t realized that it had been a few nights without a frantic 8 p.m. search across the house for her, or a 3 a.m. wake up call to retrieve her from under his bed. She laid there on the floor, looking forlorn and forgotten even with her smile sewn permanently on.
Last night, I tucked my son’s blankets around him before I went to sleep. I pulled her out from under the covers and laid her in the crook of his arm. For years, I have done this every night to avoid that 3 a.m. wake up call, but last night I think I did it not to make sure she stays in the arms of a little boy, but to make sure it was a little boy still holding her.
I slept with my own stuffed bear for 18 years, before deciding it would be embarrassing to bring to college. The bear had little to do with comfort, and more to do with the fact it was the perfect shape to wrap my arm around as I slept at night. In college I laid on my side, trying to fall asleep while my arm slumped down awkwardly.
I still have that bear. It’s in a box of my son’s stuffed animals, and my boys toss it around and twirl the frayed cords that hang where its smile once was. It makes me happy to see it, but not as much as my own children’s favorite stuffed animals make them.
My mom used to make me promise to stay little always. She ultimately failed in that endeavor. In the moments when my kids are being irresistibly adorable, I too find the same request on the tip of my tongue.
But I don’t want them to stay little forever. I look forward to the day when we can ride our bikes together, when I can read them Pippi Longstocking, and when they can turn on the Saturday morning cartoons by themselves and I can sleep in for just a little longer.
In the middle of the night, though, when a stuffed monkey snuggles next to a face that looks more like a baby’s than a child’s, I find myself wishing for just one more night like this.