When being Mommy will no longer be enough to keep him safe / by Christina Rosalie

He sat up tonight in bed, after I'd tucked him in and he was breathing steadily and I'd gone next door to my studio, and yelled, "Mommy, mommy, come in here!" And when I did, he said, "An alligator is trying to come in here."

His eyes were wide in the dark.

Now comes the hard part, doesn't it? Now begin those moments of helplessness that unravel in every direction: nothing I can do to stop the ugly parts of the world from rising up to meet him. Nothing to stop the fear he'll know, or the anger, the assaults, the guilt, the loneliness, the anxiety that invariably tattoos the skin of our existence as human beings.

Until now, he's been so small and so close to me, the world could barely wedge itself between us. I was his world. There were no alligators. But now, suddenly he's twenty six months old and listening to everything that's said around him, taking it in, digesting it, and the shield I make around him with my fierce she-wolf love, is permeable. His dreams are colored now with language. Words paint the landscape of every waking moment. Everywhere, he follows me about, almost breathless, with a question, an observation, some piece of whimsy. He copies everything. He says everything.

I kissed him a hundred times, pressing my face against his warm cheek. Then sang the tumbling notes of a lullaby I made up recently, to which he seems to know all the words, and requests nightly. But after I'd left the room, left the hallway, left the house with an armload of books to trade for store credit at Barnes & Noble, he woke up. As if he knew I'd left.

He pattered from his big-boy-bed to the doorway of my studio, where yellow lamp light exchanged space with the darkness pressing close, and called for Mommy.

After DH called me, saying he'd been waking up every ten minutes, troubled, calling out for me (which he has never, ever done before), I drove home anxiously. Skimming through blinking yellow lights, listening to haunting jazz tunes from faraway places. Saxophone, played well, always breaks my heart.

I came upstairs as soon as I got home, and found the two of them lying in the dark of our bedroom. DH was awake. Bean was asleep, spread horizontally across my pillows. I bent near his cheek and whispered, "I'm here now, baby. I'll watch over you. You're safe."

But how long will I even be able to say those words?