Last week I woke to the sound of men’s voices in my kitchen. I checked the clock and sat up abruptly. My husband had already left for work. Who could be in my kitchen at 6:30 a.m.?
I swung my feet to the floor and searched for the baseball bat my husband keeps under his side of the bed. Then I fumbled for my bathrobe in the dark room. A robe – even a fluffy pink one – is necessary if one plans to menace intruders with an aluminum bat. Menace is difficult to achieve while wearing an eyelet-trimmed nightgown.
Of course, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t dial 911. Let’s just say my best thinking doesn’t occur before noon. The bat got tangled in my bathrobe ties, and while I struggled to free myself, the men in my kitchen started laughing – big, booming guffaws. I eased the bedroom door open and crept down the hallway.
As I reached the kitchen, I heard, “Seriously. He’s, like, dumber than a sack of diapers.” More manly chuckles. Wait! I know that insult. It wasn’t early-morning intruders rummaging through my refrigerator; it was my 14- and 17-year-old sons getting ready for school.
But when did my younger teen’s voice change? How did I miss it? It seems like just a few weeks ago his voice squeaked liked the kitty’s rubber mouse.
I paused out of sight and listened to Zack regale Alex with tales of a classmate who apparently wouldn’t get past the first round on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”
Their deep voices grew closer and I fled back to my room. The sight of their mother sneaking up on them with a baseball bat might cause lasting psychological trauma.
I crawled between my still-warm sheets and listened as they clomped down the stairs in their size-11 shoes. “Bye, Mom,” Alex bellowed.
“Bye, Mom,” his brother echoed. The door slammed. When did they stop kissing me goodbye? Middle school? I can’t recall.
But closing my eyes, I remembered countless other mornings. Those same boys clad in blue-footed pajamas, squabbling over the Cap’n Crunch box, and singing “I Love You” with Barney and Friends.
Seventeen-year-old Alex, who now leaves the house and drives himself and his brother to school before I’m even out of bed, never used to be a morning person. In fact, when his older brother woke him too early, Alex would wander blearily into my room and crawl into bed with me.
I didn’t mind. Early morning was the only time he held still long enough to cuddle. By the time Zack was born, Alex had acclimated to morning, and it was his younger brother’s turn to get some extra shut-eye with Mom.
Zack delighted in stealth snuggling. He’d quietly tiptoe into the room and curl up next to me. I’d roll over and open my eyes to find his big baby blues peering at me. Then he’d giggle and say, “I cuddle you.”
One morning when he was 5, he wandered in and found me feeding his new baby brother. “Shh!” I said, pointing at the baby. Zack left the room. Apparently, feeling his place in the bed had been usurped, he never again snuck in for an early morning cuddle.
Somehow when I wasn’t looking, the boys in the blue-footed pajamas turned into independent young men. They wake to the shrill sound of alarm clocks, make their own breakfasts, shower and dress – all without my help.
Self-sufficiency is the goal of proper parenting, so I must be doing something right. But suddenly, I long to once again wake to the warmth of a small boy next to me. It’s hard to believe I used to press a pillow over my head to escape the sound of high-pitched toddler giggles.
My own alarm rings. I turn it off and keep my eyes tightly shut. I savor the memories of waking up to sticky toddler kisses. Breathing softly, I can almost smell the sweet fragrance of a baby-shampoo-scented head resting on the pillow next to mine.
The sound of booming baritones fades, and in the stillness of this autumn morning, I hear the echoes of little voices.