“One more song Daddy.”
“Okay. Which one mate?”
“Imagine there’s no heaven, da-do-do-do-dooo, it’s easy if you try…”
How can you say no to that? Well, after three hours of singing John Lennon’s Imagine for what seemed like the hundredth time, spattered between a few renditions of Bah Bah Black Sheep, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Pearl Jam’s Elderly Woman Behind A Counter In A Small Town; saying no did sound like a good option. Saying no and somehow forcing sleep on a little boy who only yesterday had started transitioning from his cot to his big boy bed.
In fact, an hour earlier I had done just that, I had said no. I had gotten frustrated with the process. Frustrated that he would normally be out like a light in the cot. Frustrated that he was delaying all the clothes I had to wash, the car I had to clean out, the lunch I had to prepare and the study I had to get through. Frustrated that one more song had already been sung at least twenty times. Frustrated that my attempts to drift slowly from the room or covertly along the floor like a ninja had failed. Frustrated that I thought he was just playing games. So I said no, good night and abruptly walked out of the room, ignoring his frantic pleas, the rustling of bed sheets, the *thud* as he rolled out of bed, the tiny footsteps chasing me down the hall. At that point I turned:
“Mate, come on.” – Dad code: for fuck’s sake.
“You need to go to sleep.” – Dad code: I need to sleep.
“Get back into bed.” – Dad code: I can’t deal with this anymore.
Then, he punched me in the face …
“Daddy, I’m scared.”
I immediately sunk to his level, down on one knee looking straight into those beautiful eyes, my hands surrounding his shoulders …
“What are you scared of?”
“The lion on the roof?” – a cute light projection of a lion and other animals.
“Oh mate, you don’t have to be scared of him.
He’s a good lion (that’s a lie, realistically any lion would kick your ass)
He hangs out with elephant, monkey, tiger … they’re a whole gang and they’re all happy and smiling. He’s not going to hurt you so don’t be scared. Okay?”
“But he’s a lion.” (And you’re a smart kid, you KNOW he would kick your ass)
Yes he is, but so is Daddy. Daddy is a lion and you are my baby lion, my cub. I protect you just like the lion on the projector does. We watch over you and make sure you’re okay. Okay?”
“Let’s go back to bed and I’ll sing you a song. Which one do you want to hear?”
So he laid back down in bed, listening to one more song, on repeat of course, and that is when it hit me:
One day he won’t want one more song.
One day he’ll fall asleep without my help.
One day he won’t need his lion.
One day I’m going to miss this more than he or I will ever know.
I’ll never know when that one day is until it abruptly comes to pass. It will just happen and the only way to prepare for it is to whole-heatedly love, cherish and appreciate every single version of Imagine that we sing on these long nights. After that realisation, the washing, the car, preparing lunches? That shit can wait. The cub and I are in our moment. He has one more song to drift away to.