It’s about 6:00pm. I just got my hair blown out, and am wearing a cocktail dress while fumbling around an old ‘gift with purchase’ bag for make up I’m dusting off as I untwist caps. My hand is being tugged by two pudgy hands, and a round face greets me with grunts as I look down. We hold eye contact for about 10 seconds and I go back to trying to pretend I know what I’m doing with my face.
Eventually I give up and hand you something you can’t choke on… and there you plop down.
Into the kitchen we go as you follow giggling a happy song of sorts. We turn the corner into our kitchen and you scream “cheese!”… “I’m not making mac and cheese, bud. We have an Uber coming in 20 minutes.” Tears well in your face and you’ve now begun your spell on me. I decide to try and quickly make you mac and cheese, cooling and placing the finished noodles to prevent you from blistering your fingers because I know you will be inhaling your favorite dinner.
The doorbell rings as I place your bowl down. In walks Grandma. Already you can’t be fooled. You look at me and grab my hand that is hiding behind my leg. I scoot back quickly with hopes of preventing cheesy fingers on my freshly dry cleaned dress… no such luck! Through the frantic tears and screams, I hand you off and emphatically thank your grandmother and head back into my closet to try and shimmy into a different dress that doesn’t have crusty orange marks. Of course, that happened to be the only dress that currently fits me. I try on eight different outfits and ultimately decide that what I had on originally will have to work. I work hard to remove the marks with water in the sink. With the back of my dress sopping wet and dripping down the backs of my legs as I walk towards the living room, you and I make eye contact again, just like before, and as I’m walking towards you, you begin to realize I’m about to leave. You can’t be tricked. The clip clapping of my heels are the Jaws theme song ominously taunting you, and you cling to my leg.
I slip out again and sigh at the headache of merely trying to leave the house. Your dad and I laugh casually about how happy we are to be out, both checking the time on our cellphones in intervals every five minutes or so. Our phones, of course, have your photo on them, staring back at us as an illuminated electronic reminders that we left you at home.
A few hours later we’ve both had 2 glasses of wine and are having the time of our lives. Every single word that comes out of our mouths is something about you. Eventually, the waitress comes by with our check. “Are you celebrating anything tonight?” she politely asks with a soft sweet tone. “Yes, we are celebrating that we are out of the house without our teething toddler!” we giggle back. The waitress smiled, and said something I won’t ever forget: “I remember those days. I have a 16 year old now. He drives. He stays out with friends and does who-knows-what. I can’t sleep until he gets home when he’s out late.”
We get home just after 9. Somehow you were still awake. Grandma explains she tried every trick she knew. I grab you as we say goodbye and shut the door. Your body immediately relaxes and your whimpers slowly fade while you sleep. You stayed up until I got home, until you felt safe, until you knew where I was.
I lay you down in your crib, where I know you’re safe, where you are, and where you’ll stay. Finally, you release into a deep sleep out of pure exhaustion. I stand over you for a bit and think to myself, what will I do when you’re 16? Will our roles change? Will I stay up until you’re home? Will you always love me like you do right now?
At this point I know exactly who you are, and we have a shared unspoken connection like magnets that pull together. I hope together we learn the strength and confidence to be who we are in the world, without each other someday. It is only a mere 18 months we have been together, and yet it seems like I have known you my entire life. When you’re old and have children of your own someday, you will understand. There is no love like the one we have for each other, and although sleep is a luxury in our home, there is no sleep sounder than knowing we’re both here. So I head back to my bed and lay down, I close my eyes and the first thing I think about is turning on the monitor and getting one last look before I go to bed.
Goodnight baby boy. I know we will both sleep well tonight.