There are a pair of feet, chipped multi-colored toes fanned out in a stretch, that gently nudge my side under the warmth of my bedding. They belong to my daughter.
Moments later, a hand swipes across my face.
"Sorry mama." She whispers.
"It's okay baby."
She doesn't always sleep with me when Brett is on shift, but lately it's become the norm.
I don't mind.
She clasps the stuffed monkey that a very good friend gave her to "help keep her safe at night" after the few terrifying weeks following Halloween when she wanted nothing to do with being anywhere alone, especially at night. I thought we were going to have to go back to the days of a makeshift bed on my bedroom floor for her, but the monkey got her through the worst of it. She holds him tight and close, like he is an extension of her body. She rolls over again and quickly disappears into dreams that have nothing to do with monsters and scary things.
And all is right with the world.
I slip back into sleep just as easily as she. The comfort of another body calming my racing mind and quieting the unusual noises that a cold house makes in the middle of the night when someone is missing.
It's all about mama these days.
A few months ago, it was all about dad. Now it's my turn and I admit, although there are moments when I want to scream for my autonomy, it's not so bad - this dependence. In a way, it is reassuring, validating, soothing to know that she's not afraid to let me know what she needs, even if she doesn't always do it in the most charming way. And it's very fleeting, this I know.
It will change.
I look at the boys, older, gliding through their daily lives. Homework. Activities. Friends. They come in close from time to time and let me mother them. But their needs aren't as immediate anymore. They are little men. As quickly as they come to sit by me or give me a quick hug as they race through the kitchen, they are off again pounding a ball into the pavement or wrestling with the dog. Back and forth back and forth. That's where they are now.
It's a good thing.
Kids grow, they become independent.
I tell Katie that even though I'm 37, I still want my mom from time to time. It's a feeling I'll never grow out of. She smiles and looks at my face as if I have just told her the most unbelievable fairy tale. "You do?" She says, the corners of her mouth ready to burst into a big grin.
"I do, and I hope that's the way it will always be."