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Consequences of a Split Second Decision

At 3 a.m., I am awakened suddenly but not frighteningly. I have an immediate, pre-awake knowledge that someone is standing next to my head. Someone short. Holding a blanket. Trying really hard not to scare me, and somehow miraculously succeeding. Then I hear a whisper. A "mom?" stated with a tentative innocence. He touches my face so gently I'm not even sure he actually makes contact, and when I ask him what's wrong, he says, "well, I just wanted to sleep down here with you guys." In less than one second, here is what goes through my mind:

Oh, Bryce is up. Don't act frustrated, he's probably still half asleep. But god, he made it all the way downstairs holding his long, stretched out blanket - what if he had tripped? Did something wake him up? I hope he didn't wet the bed and that's what woke him up. What does he mean he wants to sleep with us? That's weird, we're not a co-sleeping kind of family, although there was that one night a few weeks ago - maybe he's thinking of that. Oh man, I'm so comfortable right now, and he's so peaceful and soft. What would it hurt to just scoop him up and let him sleep right beside me for the next three hours? Look at him with his little blanket in his little red stripe pajamas, with his mussed hair and his half-closed eyelids. Go on, just scoop him up, there's plenty of room. Plenty.

Oh yeah, and then what? He starts writhing and he can't get comfortable and he needs a drink and he forgot his lamb and he doesn't feel like sleeping now, and I lose three hours of sleep as opposed to the five minutes it takes to walk him back up the stairs to his bed. Or worse, he sleeps in perfect peace and then considers it torture to be sequestered to his own bed the next night, creating a hideous back-and-forth, lose-my-temper scenario every night for a week, followed by two years of guilt for my idiotic handling of a simple situation. Nope, I can't give in, as much as I would like to believe a cozy little fantasy that my son can be flexible and one night of a special, unasked-for privelege won't blow up in all of our faces (mainly his).

Feeling a little sad, but mainly confident in my knowledge of this child and his nature, I take him back up to his room. He goes peacefully, and half yawns, half speaks his request for me to turn his music on when I leave. He needs his music to remind his body how to sleep at night. It's the least invasive sleep crutch that works for him. If he were in my bed, he wouldn't have this, and the troubles would begin. On my way back downstairs, I hear the jingling of the dog's collar and the scratch of his claws on the wood floor, and wonder what woke these two creatures at the same strange time in the same night. I climb back into bed, and I hear Quinn briefly stir on the monitor, the one where Bryce's acoustic guitar CD isn't wafting over the special baby monitor air waves into our bedroom, reminding me that he's safely and routinely back in his bed.

I hear Bryce's door open a few minutes later, but no lights come on. I hear small footsteps heading toward the upstairs bathroom, then a flush, then Bryce's door closing again. He'd had to go to the bathroom, that's why he'd been up, but he'd been disoriented and had looked to me for guidance and comfort when he was alone in the dark. He doesn't bother coming downstairs to me for comfort that second time. Just takes care of business and returns to his bed on his own, his music conveniently still playing.

I never really get back to sleep after that. I toss and turn and feel that somehow, no matter how much I question, analyze, re-think, do what I know is right, do what I think is right, do what I hope to god won't damage or alienate him, I can't win this never-ending battle with myself. I hope some day he realizes that whatever negativity he feels my mistakes cause him, it is a mere fraction of the agony I feel over every miniscule decision involving our interactions, even the ones made with unimaginable amounts of emotional analysis in less than one single second in the dead of night.