I peek out the front window before carrying my sleepy girl up the stairs. The trees whip back and forth, their might bowed insignificant before the fierceness of the wind. The streets are rivers, fed endlessly by the torents of the sky’s waterfall. And, as though the storm is a rockstar, the paparazzi of lightning illuminates the scene momentarily, only to leave it in thundering darkness.
Unperturbed by the storm, Gracie sleeps in my arms, offering only that maddening smile of slumbering infancy in response to the fury of the night. Slowly I bear my precious burden up the steps and place her into the softly rocking confines of her cradle.
In the hall, the door to the bathroom opens and a blonde boy emerges, tousled and sleepy in his mismatched pajamas. He smiles at me and shuts the door of his room behind him. I stand there for a moment, hearing the whip and lash and boom of the storm. My bed is calling. I know the little man who just returned himself to bed is capable of waiting out the storm alone.
I remember as a child, trying so hard to be brave, watching the forks of light across the sky and hearing the teeth-chattering crashes that followed. Even now, when I must be the brave and unflappable Mommy, my heart jumps when the thunder rolls in the night.
I have been trying lately to be more present with my children, more aware of their emotions and desires, of the smallness and dependency and childness of them. I have noticed that even after I rue their height and birthdays and independence, I often spend the precious moments absorbed in my own concerns, knowing that my boys are capable of doing so much for themselves.
Just because they can, however, doesn’t mean that they should always have to. And during this storm whose wind makes my skin prickle, my son should not have to lie alone and awake in his bed, praying for courage.
Not when I am there, available, awake.
I open the door, and a flash through the window reveals Sam sprawled carelessly on the bed, all tanned boy and chubby baby bundled up in sleepy oblivion. Ryan’s head rises, his long arms clutched firmly around an old floppy spotted bit of stuffed animal security. Slowly I lower myself onto his bed, poking him out of the way with a nudge here, a tickle there. I am rewarded with an awkward grin full of baby teeth and their half-grown, too-big counterparts.
A wiggle here, a wriggle there, and we are curled up in cozy storm-repelling companionship– mother and son, so much alike, so often in conflict. His head is tucked under my chin and I breathe in the scent of sunscreen and sweat– the smell of a boy on a summer night. I tell him I love him and he responds in kind. For a long time we lie in silence, listening to the storm as it throws its tantrum in the sky and as it slowly moves away to wreak its havoc elsewhere. I think about this boy, who during the day seems so impossibly big and grown up. Tonight, as the wind flails against his bedroom windows and tears down banches outside, he is small and childish and, for a moment, dependent on me for security, just as moments ago his baby sister was.
And I am thankful. Thankful for this oasis of peace amidst the wildness of this summer night. Thankful for the boyish form cuddled against me, with its dirty fingernails and bruised knees. Thankful and humbled and amazed at the miracle that is motherhood and all its smudged windows and piles of laundry and sticky kisses and noisy everythings.
As the storm quiets, we are both sleepy. With a final hug and kiss– and then another final hug and kiss– I leave my sweet blonde boy-baby, and return to my own bed, next to the love of my life.
This is where I belong. Not on the internet, not even in the kitchen necessarily, but beside these people– present with these little boys, this tiny girl, this wonderful man– who God has so graciously given into my life. “Thank you for the reminder,” I breathe out to my Maker as I drift into sleep.
And after the wind, a still, small voice.
He is here– in the quiet.