The best part about parenting is discovering who your children are, what makes them tick, and what moves them. Joe is intellectual. He’s our serious, deep thinking, curious boy who is perpetually looking to expand his horizons and study new things. He will spend hours perusing Google Earth, studying places he’d like to go. A while back he told me he’d like to visit Nuuk. I had no idea where Nuuk even is. Turns out it’s the capital of Greenland, the northernmost capital on the globe, and Joe had been visiting it virtually to check it out. I told him he could go there with his father and that when he wants to explore the Maldives he can take me. Luke, on the other end of the spectrum, is our creative, fun-loving sweetheart. He’s always up for a hug. He adores his older brother. (Yesterday he told me that if a genie gave him three wishes, he would ask for 3 boxes of each Lego set ever made. Then he would ask that his brother could have a wish. Of course, then he would ask the genie for more wishes. He’s not selfish, but he’s also not crazy.) His heart is gigantic with room enough for millions of people and animals. He once lost one of his favorite stuffies down a vent in our house. It turned into a life-or-death rush to rescue Woofy from the well and heal Luke’s breaking heart.
Last night, I went in to say goodnight to the boys and found Luke all misty-eyed. He was surrounded by stuffed animals on his bed. He had been crying. When I asked what was wrong, he said he was sad that he would have to leave all his stuffed animals behind when he goes to heaven. Earlier in the evening, we’d been having a serious-minded discussion with Joe about heaven and what it might be. Obviously, it had gotten to Luke. This is not the first time Luke has shared this concern with me. He’s mentioned it once before and at that time I assured him that heaven will be filled with the things and people we love and that if his animals are that important to him he will certainly see them there. It seems as if the same concerns surfaced for him again last night. I had apparently not yet finished off that dragon.
Unfortunately, my reassurances didn’t calm him down immediately. He told me that he didn’t have room on his bed for all his stuffed animals (sadly, this is true), so he felt bad that half his animals weren’t getting any love. He got sad eyed again. Oh…this kid turns my heart to mush. As he said that, I revisited all the nights I spent organizing every stuffy I owned on my bed before being willing to fall asleep. I would place them around my body from head to foot so that they formed a plush outline of little Justine. In this way I felt protected. I also knew that I was being a dutiful parent to these stuffed creatures by showing them equal love and appreciation. Like Luke, I had a big heart for stuffed animals. They would call to me from store shelves with their eyes filled with desperation. I couldn’t stand to leave one who called to me behind. I still have several of the plush critters from my childhood. I’m not ashamed to admit they are in my bedroom as an adult, obscured from immediate view but still close by and cherished. So, my heart filled with empathy for Luke’s truly legitimate concern, I did the only thing a mom can do in that situation.
“Would you like it if I took the other half of your critters into my bed and I slept with them tonight?” I queried.
Steve shot me a look to let me know I had lost my mind. I’m sure he wasn’t looking forward to sharing our queen size bed with twenty-some odd stuffed creatures and me. It seems there’s not enough in our bed for the two of us to begin with.
“That way, they won’t feel left out and you won’t have to worry about them,” I continued.
Luke pondered the situation for about a half a second and then nodded his head yes.
“Where are they?” I asked.
“The other half are in the bin in the other room,” he said.
“Okay. It’s settled, then,” I said as I got up from the edge of his bed. “I will take them in with me and cuddle with them tonight.”
Luke looked genuinely relieved. He smiled, rolled over, and told me goodnight. As I was about to exit quietly and leave him to peaceful slumber, he sat up.
“Joe’s animals don’t get enough love either,” he mentioned. “Maybe tomorrow night I can sleep with half of them and you can take the other half so they won’t feel left out either.”
“Good idea,” I said, garnering another look from Steve.
So, last night I slept with my patient husband and about twenty stuffed critters, mostly mammals but a few reptiles too. I kept Woofy, the chocolate lab, tucked into one arm crease and Motty-O, Luke’s most precious grey horse, in the other while I slept. For a few minutes before falling asleep, I thought about the silly things I’ve done for my boys over the years just to make them feel safe, loved, and secure. I glanced at the animals strewn across my side of the bed and smiled, knowing I had once again put some of my comfort aside just to be sure that my son was happy and peaceful. Oh. Who am I kidding? Those animals brought me the same peace and security they brought Luke. We both slept great.