As I was putting you to bed after a day full of itself, you struggled to calm down. I pretended to turn off the question part of your brain by patting the top of your head. You turned to me, and cocky, you explained that you are always in question mode.
And it was everything I could do to stop the sigh in the back of my throat. Because curiosity is amazing and communication is essential. But when those two traits combine in one small boy, they combust.
This, after you explained to your baby brother that his car seat cries were not an emergency because it was a short drive.
– “Nolan, we are almost home. Why don’t you understand it hurts our ears when you cry in the car.”
This after you melted down because we wouldn’t let you draw on your fancy menu at the restaurant.
– “But it’s making me boring.”
And based on the the fire and brim stone sermon you delivered, boring you in a sin.
This after I watched you stand your ground to a boy twice your size at the indoor playground.
– “Don’t push me!” you demanded, fully certain that the nine year old in front of you would listen in spite of, or maybe because of, your size. And because you were right, because you knew you were right, because you were so sure – he did listen.
And then, when you finally stopped talking about why raccoons were dirty and you succombed to the exhaustion of the day, your breathing slowed and steadied.
But then, a sleepy drawn out, “Mama?”
There was no topic that needed explained, no complaint to cite, no indignity to reckon.
You were taking attendance.
And in your final question of the night, I heard all the unspoken questions of the day ; I could hear all the ones that really matter, the questions that are hidden inside the outburts and cries and demands of the day that earns each minute of its 24 hours :
Are you still with me?
Will you be near me?
Will you stay till I sleep?
Will you come back if I wake?
All the inflection and only one word.