Every once in awhile, when life starts to feel a little too melodramatic, the universe chucks a giant meteor into my atmosphere. It comes at me with such velocity that it shakes me to the core and forces me to look beyond my insulated, egocentric bubble.
Last week, the meteor was a photo—a single snapshot of a little boy. A toddler, I presumed, based on his adorably pudgy limbs—lingering legacies of his infancy. As I studied his smooth, tan skin like toffee and dark silky hair, I suddenly gasped. My God, he looks just like my son when he’s asleep.
Only this boy was not asleep.
His name was Aylan, and he was absolutely beautiful. And innocent. And dead.
My heart plummeted. My throat clenched. Suddenly, a swarm of salty tears cascaded toward my lips, coming with it a tidal wave of emotions: sadness, anger, despair. But the biggest one of all? Guilt. Yes, a giant glob of humbling guilt.
You see, I had been lamenting my lack of sleep lately, as many young parents do. I had been growing increasingly frustrated, almost angry (insert guilt here), that my 14-month old still wasn’t consistently sleeping through the night, waking 1-2 times (or more) most nights. His latest bout of sleep issues—teething? growth spurt? who ever knows—had me and my husband resorting to co-sleeping again. (Co-sleeping is really a deceiving term, because the only one “sleeping” in this situation is my son—a slumbering, snoring little man whose restless limbs relegate us to the very edges of our mattress as we scramble to find a modicum of comfort in those spared inches of space.)
As I studied that picture of little Aylan, his lifeless body being lapped by the waves of the Mediterranean sea, I collapsed into a puddle of shame.
There I was, complaining (in my comfortable house, safe neighborhood, and free country) that my beautiful little boy—still a baby by many measures—wanted to sleep next to the safety and comfort of his parents. Pardon my French, but how fucked up is that?
The truth is, I would happily sleep with my son every damn night for the rest of my life, if it meant that he would HAVE a life.
As a mother, I so desperately wanted to reach through my computer screen and scoop up little Aylan. I wanted to wrap him in a warm towel, cradle him in my arms, and somehow serenade him back to life through the power of lullaby.
But I couldn’t. He was gone.
But my son, he isn’t gone. He’s still here today. And every day that he is here is a miracle and a gift.
So when I heard my son start to cry on the monitor this morning before dawn, I didn’t even hesitate. I immediately tiptoed into his room, scooped him up, and brought him into bed with me. As he nestled his head into the crook of my arm, he fell back asleep for another two hours. I didn’t. But this time, I didn’t feel anger, or frustration—or even guilt. No, I felt something else entirely: gratitude. Because for two glorious hours, I got to meditate on the silhouette of my son as the morning sun rose, soaking in his smell, his breath, his hair, his skin.
As he slept, I softly sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star-–his favorite lullaby—against a soundtrack of crashing waves from our sound machine. And I thought of Aylan—the little meteor who made a big impact on my life. Sleep tight, little Aylan. May you burn bright and beautiful in the stars above.