Braden is sick again and that means he’s coughing in that special way that toddlers have which makes you clench up and wait for the inevitable choking sound every.single.time. Over and over again, I listen to him gag and gasp and make the phlegmy struggling sounds for breath that keep my blood pressure just a little higher than it really ought to be.
Last night he couldn’t sleep, and was pulling out one excuse after another to climb from his bed and yell down the stairs to us. His pleas for us to turn the music on, then off again, to find his toy car, and to turn on the light were all mingled with whimpers and punctuated by cries and sometimes soft, tired moans. Every request was just code for, “I need you, please come be with me, I’m feeling poorly and I just can’t be alone tonight.” Mommy is the ultimate translator – all those words and words and words, but a Mommy can see right through them. They pour off either side of the real request like oil parting and running this way and that on the surface of turbulent water.
But this night it was not just Mommy to the rescue. Often Mommy has to be the one who answers the call, who throws her hair over her shoulder and dashes off, valiantly. Mommy is so often the one who is here, so Mommy plays the heroine. But sometimes I get to fold my cape up for a beat. I write my story, I speak from my point of view. But he cuts through my view, too.
He listened to the translation of messages Mommy could hear floating down the stairs. When Mommy came down after a visit with the little sleep fighter, he heard all the things she said about little boys who are terribly unable to fall asleep because ohhh, they are just in need of togetherness and tender closeness. Mommy, who was distraught because of deadlines and projects. Mommy, who felt torn between work commitments and life priorities.
Daddy saw the worry and frustration on her tired face, and even though he had already done the bath routine and the bedtime routine, he smiled kindly, then set his face and stood up. He dashed off to go sit with the unwitting mini-villian upstairs, who was really just a little boy making too much noise for his tiny, tired body, until he could be tricked (loved) into falling comfortably asleep. He went in search of hugs and cuddles that would be stronger and more fierce than coughs and sneezes.
He answered the needs of the boy and the needs of the Mommy, all in a single bound.
I briefly saw his brightly colored cape flap at the corner of the stairwell right before he disappeared from view and I continued to tap at the keys, only momentarily wondering who that masked man was.
John is gone and has been for weeks; he won’t be home still for some time. It’s okay. I miss him and Braden misses him, but the truth is that we’re used to him being away a lot. We have a rhythm we get into while he’s away.
Of course, after a while, Mommy gets a little cranky and somewhat tiredish. Braden and I do get along well. We have fun and I laugh even when he’s a turd. When he’s a brat, I am firm and I’m not afraid or unable to administer discipline. But it gets hard sometimes for me to reel in my anger when he’s really difficult, especially when I’m particularly, ahem, hormonal.
I’ve gotten to that point this week, and I’m needing some time for a break, a bit of quiet, and oh yeah, I have work to get done! I get frustrated at the lack of time for myself. I get Teh Selfish on me.
Today is rainy, again. Today is a bit colder again. He is annoyed that I am staying on the couch a lot this morning because my uterus is once again suffering for the sins of Eve (Hey, Eve, ya bitch, apples aren’t even THAT GOOD. I mean, I could understand if it had been friggin’ TIRAMISU or something, but really? Oh well.) and I’m Grumpy Tired.
He’s spending the morning running around the room throwing toys at me. He’s asking me to come outside. I’m being a jerk, telling him Mommy is too tired. We play ball while I sit on the couch. It’s fun, until I get hit in the titty. Then it’s hilarious. But painful. Ouch.
Naptime comes and I can tell he’s not ready; he’s too wound up. I let it slide for an extra thirty minutes. Then I pick him up and he whines. There are protests. I meet them with a favorite book and he slumps in my arms, tension flowing away, talking about Fluffy and Baron in excited anticipation.
We read and then the lights go out. We snuggle under a blankie and I rock as the lullaby CD plays in the background.
I wait for him to fall asleep so I can get some things done.
He is restless. He talks and I remind him that “naptime is quiet.” He whispers.
I wait for him to fall asleep because I really need to get some things done.
I close my eyes and rock, holding him close, feeling the tension in him as he moves around trying to find a position that feels sleepy, but it’s not coming to him.
I will never get things done!
I am frustrated. The minutes are stretching into forevers and I have work to get done. I want him to stop wasting my time. I want him to quit being annoying and just go to sleep.
I open my eyes and look down at his little face. His head is resting in the crook of my left arm and he is looking up at me. He is grinning to himself over jokes in his head. I feel annoyed because he does not look tired at all. I look at him with disdain. His eyes sparkle back at me. For a moment there is a new tension in his small body and then there is the undeniable sound of a toddler fart above the enchanting lullabies.
For a split second, we are frozen, eyes locked, our faces inches away from one another.
We both burst into laughter, giggling madly, still close to one another. He is delighted that I am laughing with him. I am defeated that he broke my quiet naptime stoicism, but in a pleasant way. The unexpected mirth feels good.
It falls quiet again. He is whispering to himself. He snuggles closer and traces the letters that stand out on my shirt. I close my eyes and rock as the lullabies keep drifting around us. His fingers fall on the hollow spot right at the bottom of my neck, tapping.
They become still and I open my eyes. He is looking up at me and suddenly his little palm rises from my chest and warmly rests on my cheek. He presses lightly and murmurs a cooing sound of “mmmmmms” that has always meant “i love you,” since before he could say words.
That feeling that comes right before an emotional sob rises in my chest, blurs behind my eyes. There is love and regret and guilt. It recedes and I just look at him.
His little hand slowly drops back to my chest and curls there. I put my palm on his cheek – something that has always calmed him.
His eyes are heavy and his lashes flutter like butterflies that can’t find the courage to land.
They finally rest and I listen as his breaths grow deeper and longer.
He is asleep now. I touch his soft chin with my finger, and I linger in the chair.
Suddenly there is no work and I lose track of time just staring at him.
I can’t think of a thing I really need to do right now.