I heard his waking. The creaking of his bottom bunk as his legs stretched and his body twisted and as he gathered his legs again to his chest to scrunch beneath his blankets.
I followed the thump of his footsteps to the bathroom, his shoulder clipping the pocket door and the racket of things rushing from the counter to the floor. Then a flush. And a tiptoe back to his bedroom. A tiptoe. As if no one had heard him come.
I waited. Waited with my left ear tuned to the hallway. Waited for the stealth-like creep of my boy to surprise me at the side of my bed. Waited for his hooded head to seek out my hands. My lips. My praises. Waited for his window-ed grin.
But he didn’t come.
The kitchen cupboard creaked. And I strained to hear first knees on the counter, and then feet on the floor. And I could see it all, if I tried–the bowl, the spoon, the tucked-under knees as he ate. And the spurt of water–on and off–as he rinsed his bowl.
That he’d needed me for none of it.
And I basked in his independence.
For a moment.
Because somewhere inside, I needed him to need me. Needed him to fill up on loves before his day started. Before mine did.
When I found him minutes later, he was at the bottom of the stairs humming as he pushed and tugged his trains over freshly built track, his day merrily on its way.
I ruffled his hair as I knelt beside him. Patted his confident arm. And wondered who was braver today. Who more independent.
Him. Or me.