I am laying in bed last night with my arm hanging completely over the side, my poor fingers getting more and more numb by the second, thinking: Why? What did I possibly do to deserve this? I am so tired, I can't possibly stay awake another second. And yet, I can't possibly sleep with my arm like this. And why, you ask? Why can't I put my hand in a more comfortable position? Well, that would be due to a 4-year old gremlin who says he can't possibly go to sleep unless he is holding my hand.
[I know what you are thinking. Why on earth is my 4-year old gremlin even in the same room as me? Let alone laying on the floor next to my bed holding on to my hand? There is a simple explanation for that, and it is this: After almost 2 decades of fighting with my children to go to bed, I have come to the conclusion that I don't care how or when or why they sleep. I just want them to go to sleep. So I can. Not the best policy, I know. But I'm tired. I'm old and I'm tired. And I just want to go to bed.]
But I digress. And laying as far as I can on the side of the bed so that I can hang my arm off, so my gremlin can hold my hand while he falls asleep, apparently puts me in a contemplative type mood. And I think back to almost 15 years ago when my oldest was this age. Until she was 5, I was a single mom. It was just her and I against the world. Out of necessity (we shared a room) and mutual love of snuggles (maybe me more than her) we slept in one big queen bed together. When we moved into a bigger place where she could have a room of her very own, she wanted nothing to do with it. It was a very long process to get her to her own bed in her own room. One of the steps in that process was to put her in her own bed next to mine, where, did you guess? She wanted me to reach across and hold her hand.
Another time when my children refused to be soothed unless I held their hand happened on two different occasions with two different children. Only this time I was driving. Do you have any idea how hard it is to hold your hand out to a child in the back seat of a car when you are driving? The entire time, I was just imagining the horrific ways my arm would be broken if I were to (due to my left-hand-only steering technique) get into a car accident. I would need pins and surgeries and months of rehab just to be able to use my arm again, I just knew it. But every time I tried to slip my hand out of those tiny little fingers and back to its rightful place on the steering wheel, she (it was one of my daughters both times) would undoubtedly jolt awake and cry for my hand once more. It was a long, excruciating car ride, let me tell you.
I can almost measure time by the hand-holding events in my children's lives:
- They wrap their chubby hand around my one finger as they begin to learn to balance and walk, able, but terrified to do it alone...yet.
- Holding on with a death grip as we cross the street together. Me, the one with the death grip this time, them, in a state of zen-like oblivion.
- A different kind of death grip as I drag my child by the hand screaming and fighting out of a store, restaurant, church, insert-any-public-place-here. Both of our faces red, but for entirely different reasons.
- The first day of school. They are holding on to my one hand with both of theirs. Fearing for dear life for what kindergarten might have in store.
- Disneyland. This time they are pulling, yanking me in directions I can't possibly go in all at once. They would let go in a second if they possibly could, but I hold on tight, not wanting to lose them in the sea of similar parent/child conjoined hybrids.
- Nervous, getting ready for opening night of her first ballet, my 9-year-old grabs my hand as we walk into the backstage area.(She had just finished screaming at me for not doing her hair quite right and "purposely stabbing the bobby-pins" into her head. But all is apparently forgiven now.)
- My wonderful, independent 12-year-old surprises me by running up from behind and grabbing my hand as we walk towards the middle school for Back-to-School night. She drops it (of course) as we enter the front doors. It was so brief I almost could have imagined it. But I didn't.
- Heading into the auditorium for graduation. My beautiful 18-year-old and I hold hands in a gesture of relief, triumph, pride, closeness, happiness, sadness, and love.
These, of course, are just a few of the moments in the almost infinite experiences of hand-holding I have had as a mother. But trust me when I say, they get markedly fewer and much farther between. So cherish those finger-numbing, sweaty-palmed, death-gripping moments. Before you know it, the hand they want to hold is no longer yours.
At least that's what I tell my self when my arm is hanging off the side of the bed, completely devoid of feeling at 1:00 in the morning.