My son, Noah, has an interesting little habit. He waits until it’s close to 6pm or so to actually act the way he does, mainly because he knows that at some point, around 6:30 or so I’ll be coming home. The kid has ears like a hawk, so even if his sister, Hannah, runs into the garage where I have the refirgerator from our old house for the mountains of food I have to keep for 4 growing kids, he hears the door open. Hannah may be getting an apple out of the fridge, but he’s standing there waiting. Noah’s waiting for me, if you haven’t figured that out by now.
Both he and Sam have this little thing. Sam doesn’t wait by the door, no, but he still does it. Though I have to admit there are days that Spongebob wins out over me and when he gets called for dinner I hear the inevitable “oh! Dad’s home!” Not sure which bothers me most, to be honest with you. Noah’s habit, however, is slowly becoming a point of annoyance for his sisters. The slightest noise from the garage or from the big door opening and letting in my car perks his ears. He jumps up and heads straight for the door. It’s a bit disconcerting that he does it so quickly, sometimes, particularly during a rough day or a tiring one. When the door swings open – and make no mistake, there’s no slow movements, it’s immediate, batman breaking down the door, quick – his head peers around the doorjam and I don’t have to even see his head to know it’s him.
I never lose my patience with him or his brother about this, though. The only time I ever have is when he’s jumped into the garage and the car’s still moving – I refuse to be one of those parents that has the horrific guilt of accidentally running over their child. Some days he hears the music from inside the car and does the goofiest, most inane dance just to get my attention. Sometimes – and this does annoy me – he decides he needs to give me a rundown of the injuires he’s sustained or the indiscretions of his miscreant siblings.
Even this, though I chastise him for being too much of a tattle-tale, I allow. You might think it’s a bit strange that I’d allow this nightly performance, but I’m not stupid, either. I know he needs it. I know that he wants to feel safe and he has, on more than one occasion, realized that he needs that comfort. In a home with three other kids, you do what you can to get attention, and Noah decides on a good day he needs more than everyone else. I also realize that he’s come so much farther than where he was even 2 or 3 years ago. The biggest complaint his mother had when she would arrive home for the evening was his meeting her at the door. Then, however, his first words usually contained the phrase “this was the worst day ever!” It actually took me a long time for me to realize that he’s stricken this phrase from his vocabulary nearly completely. I know why – there’s really few days that can live up to that statement anymore.
But this is his personality. As much as his brother’s is laid back, he needs to know everything is as it should be – even if what he sees in his head doesn’t match reality sometimes. Where he does this, Sam will, like clockwork holler “hey, Dad?” waiting for my answer as he stands at the upstairs bannister. When he hears me asking “what, Sam?” he waits the perfect beat and simply says “…love you!” It’s Sam’s way of doing the same thing: making sure I’m here and they’re all safe.
When Sam had a sunburn and blisters and couldn’t sleep at night his brother wouldn’t admit, while Sam was in the room, that he was worried. I mean, sure, his nose had a few little tiny pustules and his chin, too, but they lasted a few hours and were gone. He obsessed over them and freaked out when his skin started to peel a little. But he didn’t complain much. He would say something, but as Sam entered the room would immediately quiet down and say “nevermind, Dad.” He won’t admit to us or his brother what I already know: he’s worried.
When his Mom was sick, somewhere around 2 years ago, she had gotten in so much pain she was on an insanely high dose of medication. She had an inability to lay flat on the bed. Most nights she went upstairs, I think to make sure I had company in the bed, and thought she was heading downstairs without my knowing it. I know she understood that wasn’t the case, I have never been a heavy sleeper – until this last year when exhaustion started creeping into my nightly routine. Most nights I stayed down with her and she fell asleep on the couch. I stayed there with her.
Kids are far more intuitive than you think. It’s what makes you most human, I think, when you can react without knowing it, feeling sadness or stress or worry when you have no idea you’re doing it. Just the other night, in the height of Sam’s tearful complaints about the aloe and solarcaine on his back and fear when a blister would leak and start running down his chest, Noah displayed that very behavior. You see, when Andrea was sick, Noah, without knowing it, would sleep walk. His eyes were open, his body moving like normal, he’d even answer you if you talked to him, albeit in one or two-syllable words only. He’d come down the stairs and move a pillow and his head would lie next to mine and he’d lay down on the couch and be out cold. I’d have to carry him back up. He was checking we were both there and OK. He did that very thing just the other night. Abbi and I were in our nightly movie foray and down comes Noah. He grabbed a stuffed animal and literally tossed it across the room, not even watching it roll along the floor.
“Hey, buddy, you OK?” was Abbi’s question. I just smiled.
“He’s asleep, Abbi.”
Noah muttered “I’m OK” and lie down on the couch.
“Oh my God, he’s so cute!” was Abbi’s line. I smiled. He hadn’t done this since more than a year ago. I knew it was his brother. He wouldn’t say it out loud, but he was really worried. You see, normally, if it’s a cold, or what have you, Noah is loathe to lose the attention. He acts out, even when he’s not warranted, because he doesn’t like the other kids getting the attention. But this week, with Sam in so much pain and so freaked out Noah had a look on his face that was complete stress and worry. It crept into his suconscious and here he was.
I picked up Noah, back pain be damned, and carried him upstairs. I lay him on the bed, covering him up with the quilt his Grandma made him for Christmas, with owls and cats on it, and put his sock monkey – given because I call him that, my monkey, and put my hand on his forehead. Eyes closed and facing away from me I heard him quietly say “I love you Daddy.”
That, you see, is what makes me most human.