The Thoughts That Keep Me Up At Night

by Samantha Wassel
Originally Published: 

Sometimes, when I lie in bed at night, I think about you.

I think about the day we had. I think about all the things I didn’t do for you, and all the things I did do for you, but didn’t do right. I think about the things I said to you, and the things I didn’t say to you, but should have.

I think about those moments when my words or actions caused a shadow of pain, shock, or disappointment to flicker across your usually vibrant face.

I think about all of the mistakes I made throughout the day, and all of the things I wish I could go back and do over.

I think about how I yelled at you when you spilled your cereal all over the kitchen floor. You were only trying to help me by bringing your dishes to the sink. I could have said, “It’s okay, honey. Mama spills stuff, too. Thank you for bringing me your bowl.” I could have handed you the broom and allowed you to sweep it up like big boy. You would have loved that.

I think about how I waved you off—saying, “not now”—when you brought me the “First 100 Trucks” book to read to you for the millionth time. It’s not so much a “reading” book as it is a point-and-shout book, and I could feel a headache coming on. But I could have popped an Advil and taken 15 minutes to cherish the weight of your tiny toddler body curled in my lap. I could have smiled as you proudly pointed out the aerial ladder truck. (It’s your favorite.)

I think about how I muttered, “fuck this,” under my breath when you refused to eat the fish bites I made for lunch, choosing instead to run around the kitchen with your arms out like an airplane. I know you didn’t hear me, but that doesn’t matter. I heard me. I don’t know why I got so upset. You’re a toddler, and your body is as active as your imagination. I could have told you that airplanes need fuel, handed you the Nutri-Grain bar you’d been begging for, and flown around the kitchen with you.

I think about how angry I got when you wouldn’t stop pulling my hair, and how I dragged you to your room by the arm, accidentally-on-purpose tossing you in a little too hard. You fell on the floor and looked up at me with tears in your eyes. I should have scooped you up—right then and there—and said, “I’m sorry. Mama shouldn’t have pushed you like that. Sometimes grownups get upset and make mistakes, too.” Instead, I closed the door in your tear-streaked face.

I think about how you fought with your brother over who was going to “sit in Mama’s lap,” and how I irritably pushed you both away, saying, “Forget it. Now no one gets to sit with Mama.” You both just wanted to be close to me. I could have said, “let’s share mama’s lap,” grabbed a blanket, and asked you to join me for a snuggle party.

I think about how there will come a day when you can’t both fit in my lap, and a day when neither of you wants to be there.

I think about how much I’m going to miss you when you’re much further than just a few doors down at night.

I think about how fast you’re growing up, and how much that terrifies me, and how much time I’ve wasted getting upset with you over such inconsequential things.

I think about how much I love you—so much so that it feels like my heart is cracking from the fullness of you, tearing at the seams like a pillow that’s been overstuffed.

I think about you lying in your own bed, tucked away from me for the night, and my heart aches. It aches for you—in the absence of you—because it’s often not until you’re beyond my reach that I realize just how much I want to hold you close to me while I still have the chance.

And when I can’t fall asleep because of that ache, I think about how much I want to sneak into your room, lift you in my arms, and press you against my splintering heart like a giant band aid.

I think about how much I want to whisper “I’m sorry” in your ear as you rest your head in the concavity between my chin and shoulder, right against my pulse. I think about allowing the gentle rise and fall of your breath to synchronize with my heartbeat, reminding me that our separate lives were once one, and that you are a literal part of me.

I think about how soothing it would be to feel your tiny arms wrap around me, your perfect little body fitting into mine like a puzzle piece.

But I resist the urge to wake you. I won’t allow my thoughts to interrupt the peacefulness of your slumber the way they’ve interrupted mine.

Instead, as my head and heart fall heavily upon my pillow, I think about the days to come, and I promise myself that I’ll have better thoughts to lull me to sleep tomorrow.

This article was originally published on