When you were a tiny infant, you almost never slept. Your giant dark globe eyes roamed around wherever you were as if to say, “what else ‘ya got for me?” You were afraid to miss anything by sleeping, even when you were a newborn. I learned all I could about the human sleep cycle back then, and how I could help you soothe yourself back into a longer sleep when your brain wanted to wake up. I spent so many months bent over your crib with my hand on your back, encouraging you to stay asleep. I mastered the art of tip-toeing slowing backward away from the crib and towards the doorway, afraid to creak the floor because I knew we’d have to start all over again.
For so long, I simply stood in the frame of the doorway, listening to your breathing and planning my next slow move to escape the room. I was never in a rush because it was my job to help you know it was OK to rest. Some nights, I was able to leave the doorway. Most times, though, I found myself right back where I started, shushing and tip-toeing in reverse. Being there, just in case.
When you were two and we moved into our new house, the change really threw you. Your brand new big boy bedroom felt alien and unfamiliar, and you were afraid to fall asleep or be alone in bed. In order to get you used to your new room, I stayed with you while you eventually fell asleep, then spent the following nights slowly inching myself closer away. First, I sat on the floor until your eyes closed, then I started to crawl away towards the door frame. There I stayed for several nights. Then, I sat outside the doorway in the hall for what felt like an eternity, waiting, listening, making sure you knew that just because I wasn’t still in your room didn’t mean you weren’t safe. Being there, just in case.
Now, as a teenager breaking away from us and needing space, you are the one that dictates so much of what happens at your doorway. I knock on closed doors. I ask if it’s OK to come in and wait for permission. I feel your impatience while I stand in the frame asking my meager question while your hand on the knob readies to push me away again. Most of the time, I simply stand in the hallway, just looking at the white door, wondering what you’re doing in there, and questioning if it’s really OK that a teenager spends so much time in their room.
Sometimes I’ll hear you sing to yourself while I’m standing there and I’ll smile because I know that means you’re happy. Sometimes I’ll hear notebook paper crumple up or complete silence and worry and fret about what that might mean. Sometimes (most times) I’ll look at that doorway and wish you’d come out, pleasant and in the mood to talk, or that you’ll want to come and watch a movie with me and your Dad, or ask my advice for something. But the door stays closed while you cocoon yourself out of childhood and into who you’re meant to become.
Now it is me on the other side of a doorway, anxious about our bond and my own sense of safety and reassurance as I try to navigate my way through this season of your life. We both stand at the precipice of your young adulthood and I wish you could put your hand on my back and let me know it’s going to be OK, and that I can rest, just like I did for you when you were new and couldn’t rest on your own. I long to be in the same room with you again, even if it were you now creeping backward towards the door and waiting there until I fell asleep, reassured and safe.
But it’s not your job to do that. And as scary and unknowing as it sometimes is on the other side of this doorway, I know standing there, being there on the other side of things is still where I belong, and where I’ll wait while we both figure this growing up thing out. You don’t need me creeping backward out of your door anymore. You don’t need me to sit in the doorway while you fall asleep, and I know you think you don’t need me on the outside of doors waiting for you, but I always will be, because one day that door will come swinging open and maybe you will want to talk. Or ask me for help. Or even ask me to step aside so you can go gallop down the stairs and out into your own life with new doors and rooms and hallways to discover. Either way, I’ll be on the other side of everything you’re doing, waiting, being patient, and being on call. Being there. Just in case.