Sometimes when you think things are going great, you get a nasty surprise. For a few weeks now, Benjy has seemed happy, especially with school. He's been lively and engaged. He's been learning. (Tonight he informed us and the dear friends we were eating with of the causes of the French and Indian War, which the rest of us over-educated folks sitting around the dinner table had forgotten.) There's been a fair amount of humming and singing going on around here. Hes' been eating-- real food, that is -- which is a relatively new and welcome development.
So imagine my surprise and dismay when tonight at bedtime he thrashed about in his bed and begged me not to send him to school tomorrow.
"But you love school," I reminded him.
"But I can't go tomorrow."
"You have to."
"It's not FAIR, Mom! There should be more days off than there are school days. It's not right!" His body was so agitated, and his mind, too, that he almost wrenched himself off the bed.
I stroked his damp hair. "Go to sleep and we'll see how you feel in the morning." This is the oldest trick in the book. Tell him you'll think about it when you really have no intention of letting him stay home. He sighed bitterly. I kissed him goodnight and went across the hall to read email. And after a few tense moments I heard him weeping.
I sat there, not knowing what I would do, until he called me. Then I went to him.
"Can you lie with me?"
"Sure, honey," I said. I lay down beside him and his rigid body relaxed. His warmth was somehow consoling. His arm, which he'd draped over my waist, slipped off. And as is always the case when I lie in his bed -- a rare occurrence these days, and rightly so -- we both fell asleep. That was an hour ago. I'm up again, and I'm thinking. Ben is such a vulnerable boy. He probably always will be. Probably every time I think we've turned a corner we'll slide back a little. Two steps forward, one step back. But that's okay. I've given up on that trajectory you dream about when you're twenty-six, or thirty-two, or even nineteen, and you start dreaming about babies. And you know what? Heart-ache be damned, I'll take what I've got.
He's sleeping peacefully now, and I will be sleeping soon. And we will see what tomorrow brings.