At 6:30 this morning I was baking a birthday cake. At 7:30, Danny and I went into Michael’s room and awakened him singing Happy Birthday. Hard to believe, but my baby is 6 years old today. As he reminded us, it now takes two hands to say how old he is.
As the youngest, we’ve been a little more indulgent with him than we were with his older brothers. He slept in his crib until he was 3, showing absolutely no signs of wanting to leave its confines. We were firm in having Ryan and Patrick give up their binkies when they were young. With Michael, who never had one, we’ve been more lenient.
Since he was about 6 months old, he would pull the crib sheet off his bed and cuddle with it. His favorite was a red crib sheet that he literally dragged around everywhere as he got older. (I can still hear my mom saying to my dad, “He drags that damn sheet around!”)
After Riley the dog arrived, the red crib sheet bit the dust. Michael loved to play tug-of-war with her and seemed to have no problem doing so with his “nigh-night.” Eventually, Riley began to think of the nigh-night as her own and promptly tore it to shreds. No problem for Mikey, who then chose to carry around blue nigh-night. (There also was a white nigh-night, but that never seemed to hold favor.)
Whenever I would broach the subject of giving up nigh-night, Michael would say, “But I’m affected.” Ryan would howl with laughter and correct him, “You mean addicted, Mikey.”
And he was addicted. Every morning before school I would remind him to say goodbye to nigh-night. He would grab it tightly to his face, inhale deeply and say (his voice muffled by the fabric), “Goodbye, nigh-night. I’ll miss you.”
In the beginning of the school year, he would race upstairs when he came home to get his nigh-night fix. But as the school year has worn on, he would go longer and longer periods without it. So in January I told him he had a month left with nigh-night. When he turned 6, he would have to give it up.
I think he’s ready. This morning as he was getting dressed I asked him what he needed to do. “Give you nigh-night.”
“But can I just say goodbye,” he asked.
And so I helped him put into words what nigh-night meant to him.
“Goodbye, nigh-night. I’m a big boy now and don’t need you anymore,” I said.
“Goodbye, nigh-night. I’m a big boy now and don’t need you anymore,” he repeated.
“Thank you for comforting me all these years,” I said.
“Thank you for comforting me all these years,” he said.
“I’ll always remember how much you meant to me,” I said.
“I’ll always remember how much you meant to me,” he said.
And with that, he handed over what remained of blue nigh-night. It’s actually two pieces, thanks once again to a tug-of-war session with Riley.
Last night on the phone my sister asked me if I was seriously going to pitch it.
“Are you crazy? I’ll hang on to it just in case." Plus, someday I’ll pull it out of his baby box and sniff it and remember how that damn sheet was part of our lives, more important, part of Mikey for six years.”
Happy Birthday, my little groundhog. Mommy loves you.