I was feeling restless and readying myself to write while the house was quiet, when I heard a faint creak and tiny footsteps making their way down the hall. With a dim light on in the hallway, I saw a small, shadowy figure appear in the doorway to our room. But tonight, instead of climbing up in the bed and sandwiching himself between his Daddy and me, he walked all the way around the bed, past the TV and straight up to my side of the bed. Half awake he sleepily asked me, "Mommy, can you hold me?" I sat up and immediately reached for his forehead. Relief, no fever. "Are you okay, bud?" I quietly asked. He nodded and sheepishly replied, "Yes, I just want you to hold me for a bit." Armored with my iPad, I could have easily marched my son back to his room, put him back in his bed and indulged in a little much needed "me" time. Had my son been going through this phase a year ago, I probably would have doled out that dose of tough love. But any inclination I had to encourage him back to bed was put aside. You see, since my son turned four EVERYTHING has been, "No Mommy, I'm a big boy. I can do it myself." As much as I don't like to admit it, I found myself taking advantage of his weak moment.
I scooped him up, adjusting pillows with one arm and holding my sleepy boy with another. As I laid back, the weight and size of him surprised me! With my son's tired limbs sprawled around me and his dozy head resting against my shoulder, I realized that I was taking shallow breaths under his weight. No longer could he curl up and lay on my chest, and it struck me in that moment that I was trying to hold my four year old son kangaroo care style, as if he were two pounds again. I realized I was trying to hold him up on my chest like a baby; the tiny baby he used to be .... until he wasn't. Tears began to well up in my eyes. Here was my son, my only child, and he was a baby no more. I held him and listened to his heart beat and after he fell back to sleep, I gently carried him back to his room. His big boy room - not a nursery, not a toddler room. A big boy room with a full-sized bed, books he can read, maps marked with countries he wants to visit and model cars. The keepsakes from his first year of life now packed away because, according to Sutton, they are “baby things.”
When I got back to the warm spot on my side of the bed, I knew I had just received an unexpected gift. You see, there will come a time when Sutton won’t want to come to me and rest his head on my shoulder. He won’t sigh with relief at my touch, or want to hold my hand, or want to laugh or dance or play with me. I know these days are coming, but at times they seem so far away. Tonight was a little reminder of how fast four years can go by; how fast a tiny preemie can grow into a preschooler. So maybe last night, even though I thought I needed a break, maybe what I really needed was to hold a little boy. Maybe what I needed was a little grace. The kind of grace you only get when you give someone what they want, and end up getting what you truly need.