I don’t need a string around my finger

The other night, Smooch had a really hard time falling asleep. I don’t know if it was because of all the changes to our routine the last few weeks with our family visiting, or if he was scared of something, or if another molar is starting to cut, or what was going on. But whatever the cause, the only solution was Mama. He didn’t want to be alone in his room, and he didn’t want Gruff at all.

“Bih bed, Mama. Bih bed. Bih bed.”

I took him to my room, where it was dark and quiet, and we lay there together. He turned and snuggled his little body into mine, the way he did when we coslept in his infancy. His feet touch my knees now, as we lay tummy to tummy. He scoots his little cheek into the curve of my neck, and his little hand reaches up to pat my face and his fingers trace my hair. It was a while before I realized his breathing had calmed – no more ragged, hiccupy sighs – and he was asleep. I scooped him up and took him back to his bed, and he slept soundly the rest of the night.

The following night, we were alone. The family had all gone home, and Gruff was on-call at the hospital. Despite a big dinner, and our usual pre-bedtime routine, and nodding happily when I asked if he was ready for night-night, Smooch had a hard time with falling asleep again. When he started crying out for me, it had only been a few minutes since I left him in his room. So I sighed and trudged back up the stairs. He fell into my arms.

“Shishes. Shishes. Mama, shishes.”

We sat on top of his fish-painted toybox, with his legs hanging down around my waist, his head buried in my chest, his arms clinging to me like a koala bear. He cried a little bit, and I whispered a prayer for both of us. We sat in the dark, no longer upset but still not ready to part.

It occurred to me that at some point in the near future, Smooch is going to form his first memory. Almost everyone I know has a first memory that takes place somewhere in the shadowy past, between the ages of about two and four. There’s no telling now what will make that deep impression. It will most likely be some small, everyday, mundane part of our lives that I’ll barely even notice. But, years from now, someone will ask him the earliest thing he can remember from his childhood. What if, I asked myself, this was it?

As I’ve held my baby – so tall and heavy and long-legged now, at almost-two – in the peaceful dark of our bedrooms these last few nights, I have felt a sense of peace sweep over me. This, what I’m doing? Loving him and connecting with him, reassuring him of my presence and my help when it’s dark and he doesn’t feel quite right? I’d be forever grateful if this became his earliest memory. It may not be my first memory, or even my first memory of him, but it is one of those motherhood moments that I’ll cherish.

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