BY ANDREW MORKES, AUTHOR OF NATURE IN CHICAGOLAND
I’m taking a break from nature to celebrate my son Liam’s 12th birthday. I wrote this short essay when my son was age six. I still repeat this mantra daily. Also, please check out my essay, On the Joys of Carrying My Son, for my reflections on Liam getting older and spending time with him in nature.
“Good Night. I Love You, Liam. God Bless You. Have a Good Sleep.”
It’s the mantra I’ve spoken every night—sometimes a few times a night—to my son Liam while he sleeps. First when he was a tiny preemie; then a walking/talking toddler; and now a curious, high-energy six-year-old. Nowadays, these words come later after Liam FINALLY falls asleep after insisting on wrestling and having newspaper-sword and tickle fights with me, listening to me read about the adventures of Jack and Annie in The Magic Treehouse series, and I answer every question or demand he makes (Why is the sky blue? Can we not use hooks when we fish so we don’t hurt the bluegills? Don’t use the newspapers to start a fire when we camp next time because I don’t want you to accidentally burn the comics! Why did your Dad die?).
These words are a mantra that I speak aloud even when Liam is sleeping at his grandma’s house or when he was in the hospital with breathing issues. In a world of unexpected tragic events, they are a comforting, hopeful hedge against anything bad happening, and, of course, a request for God to watch out for my little sweet, but wild, little man (who just told me he ate a leaf off a tree on the first day of summer camp), during the night and when I’m not around—something akin to Spock’s “Live Long and Prosper” farewell, although I don’t do the Vulcan salute (but maybe I should for extra luck).
No night is complete until I say these words, and I will literally get out of bed to head to his bedroom in the middle of the night if I wake up and realize I’ve forgotten to speak them. The simple blessing of a parent who is not a priest, pastor, or shaman.
I will speak this mantra every night as Liam grows into a pre-teen [he’s there now], teen, college student, and young adult—as his love of Legos turns to a fascination with the opposite sex, and time with dad and mom has to be scheduled rather than just be a basic part of our everyday lives. And when my Liam has his own family, I will add his little boys and girls to my mantra list, and maybe he’ll start saying the same as they rest their heads, eyes closed, after endless games of tickle and tackle, lists of questions answered, and kids’ classics read.
Bless you, Liam, on your birthday and beyond.
Copyright (text/photos) Andrew Morkes
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ABOUT ANDREW MORKES
I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school. Stories about my work have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Beverly Review, and Practical Homeschooling.
In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).
My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.