My son doesn’t speak so I’ve learned to read him in other ways. I know which giggles are meaningful and which are just manic tics. I know his joyous squeals and grumpy whines. I know his attempts at sign language, when he is really trying to tell me something or just going through the motions because he knows he is supposed to.
I know that when Moe gets into bed for the night, sometimes he whines or cries a little. It doesn’t last long, and, as far as I can guess, is just his nervous system settling down for the night, like the last sputters of an old car engine. I know that if I go to him during that time, it just makes things worse and he has to start his winding down process all over again.
But yesterday was different. Jeff was has been working late recently, preparing for a big announcement at work, so I’ve been on solo bedtime duty for a few days. I gave Moe his melatonin and, like clockwork, 15 minutes later he climbed into his crib. Like I do every night, I dimmed the lights, tucked him in, checked that he had his monkey toy, and said “I love you, Moe,” his cue to raise his hand for a kiss.
This time, however, instead of allowing me that one kiss then pushing me away, he grabbed my hand and brought it to his head. Moe likes a lot of deep pressure input, and lately has been asking for head massages. We’ve all been a little congested and I know that can feel really good. I pressed my hand to his forehead for a few seconds, said goodnight, and turned to leave. He grabbed my hand again, and I returned it to his head.
This time, Moe brought his hand up to mine. He gently slid my hand to his cheek. He turned his head slightly, so he was just leaning in to the palm of my hand. His eyes began to close, so I started to step away, but he grabbed my hand, and placed it back on his face. He looked up at me, smiled softly, then once again pressed in toward my palm as his eyes struggled to stay open.
I so rarely get to see Moe at peace, quiet and calm, and although he often craves touch it is not generally with such softness. The gesture was more than just a sensory need, at least it felt that way to me. There was affection there, a shared moment between mother and son, unspoken but true, love passed from hand to cheek and back again.