I’ve just had one of those beautiful, fortuitous moments of parenthood; lovely and serene, bonded and treasured. I got a do-over.
Last night, Dash was messing around at bedtime quite late. He has been figuring out the technologies of his bedroom, and the lights were all the way on at 9:30pm. (Lights off is officially at 9pm, and flashlights have been confiscated.) I snapped off the lights as Dash was building a flower garden.
I shut the door, and then I went back. I opened the door again, and said: “Dash, I know you were having fun designing flowers. And I’m proud of you for playing quietly. But it’s late, and if you don’t get some sleep now you will be very tired and sad tomorrow. So it’s time to go to bed.”
He was clearly tired, and he said, “I want a snuggle.” I said, “Okay, I’ll pick you up and cuddle you, and then I’m going to put you in your bed.” I duly did so, and he seemed giddily awake, pretending to shiver. (Admittedly, I had just washed my hands, so they were probably chilly, though Dash was delighting in the theatrical rendering.)
I tucked him into bed, and he said, “Can we have a snuggle in the chair?” I, feeling that I should hold to the law, declined gently, told him I love him, and exited the room without drama.
I relayed the tale to James, admitting that I wished I had stayed, as Dash won’t always ask, and won’t always be little. James confessed that he would have caved, for those very reasons. And, so, it stuck with me. I reminded myself that I made my choice to try to help Dash get rest, and I was trying to choose the best thing for his next nights’ rest as well.
Tonight, I’ve been in the spare room organizing the heap of treasures and detritus on my work table. I’ve felt a creative spark in many directions, nudging at some preexisting projects and ideating about others. There is a breeze of initiative in the air tonight, and it’s blowing some of the dust off my soul as well as the laden surfaces of productivity.
This is, of course, thirsty work, and I needed to deposit some cans and make a cup of tea to continue. As I was pottering around the kitchen, I heard a stirring in the hallway. The door was open just a crack, and into the light beamed a small, cute human in stripy blue R2D2 pajamas.
“What is going on here?” I inquired, and Dash seemed very pleased with himself. James had informed me earlier in the evening that Dash can now open the door to his room, previously sufficiently difficult as to contain him in the evening. He had intended to take himself on a little adventure when I intercepted him, clearly, and so I scooped him up and took him back to his room.
“Can I have a snuggle in the chair, please?” he asked groggily. “Yes, I’d be happy to,” I said. He relaxed into my arms, and we got all snuggled into the chair, pillow under his head and ever-longer legs draped over the edge of the nest my legs made sitting criss-crossed and pulled onto the seat cushion. He’s so big these days, almost big enough that this trick will require a small sofa soon, but for now we can still sit in a modified version of how we ended nursing sessions: my baby asleep at my left breast, in just the right position for me to scoop up for a rocking walk over to his bed.
“Do you want me to sing you some songs?” I asked. Eyes closed, he said yes, and gently, sleepily snuggled into me. “You are my sunshine…” I sang him the same songs I’ve been singing him since he was a newborn, a rhythm that has changed a little but really not much in the last three years. It feels like everything else has changed around those songs, but this moment of the two of us doing the dance of sleep in the incredible shrinking chair has been a steady, if distancing, refrain in life.
Sometimes, I cry. Tears sit at the edges of my eyes even now. These moments in the middle of the night most connect me to my own parents, remembering in my bones having limbs the size of my little one’s, being held close by the invincible, omniscient adults of my early days. And what a cosmic thing it is, to live through such a transformation, from baby to mother, and back to baby yet again through the borrowed eyes of new life and the empathy required to connect to nonverbal communication and raw intuition.
After I sang my songs, I sat with him for a little while. At the second-to-last song, I felt a nervous rush of being one foot out the door already, and I realized it was because the usual rhythm’s end was coming soon. Of course, a millisecond later i observed that no one was dictating that I stop singing, or what I could sing, and certainly not how long I could enjoy sitting with my son.
I stroked his hair. I held him close. I thanked him for coming down from the stars to be my baby. I marveled at his beauty, and for a moment felt connected to the divine.
“I’m going to put you in your bed now,” I whispered as I belayed him into a cloud of cottony quilting. I tucked him in, kissed his forehead, and felt that silky hair I’ve loved since the day he was born.
“I love you so much,” I reminded him. I quietly made my exit, heart full to bursting.
My tea was still hot when I got back to the kitchen.