My little man is one, and with it I reflect on the year when time stood still and elapsed in seconds simultaneously. Home full-time with my son has been one of extremes, leaving nothing in the middle. Distinct and sometimes surprising moments of highs that seem more like gestures or whispers of events so commonplace that without effort would be buried in his future.
There are the moments that have long since passed, never to return. In the hospital I remember the way his movements in my arms mirrored this movements in my belly; it made the transition to his life in the outside world less abrupt, and my longing for those internal motions less severe. I miss his rooting. I miss his bright, angry red face so upset that it froze with sadness, producing no tears or sound. This probably makes me a terrible person. I miss the way he periodically stretched in my arms in mid slumber while I held him, so content afterward that my limbs felt gratified. Now I can only watch it from afar. The initial explorations of food; his gentle tapping on our limbs and pleading glances requesting a sample of whatever food my husband or I were eating. And, his first assertions of preference; shaking his head, “No,” mostly meaning just that, but sometimes the gesture was just proof that he had the capacity for an opinion. Now the uncertainty is gone as he consistently pronounces his negation on any given event he wishes to cease.
There are increasingly rare moments like of him sleeping on me, sprawled with his mouth open and small tongue just poking through. Periodically, his lips engaging in phantom sucking, reminiscent of his love for the pacifier he long since consciously forgot.
Some of the moments were even more fleeting, as when my son was first learning to feed himself. In quiet rapture I’d sit as he poked at his food before bending over to retrieve whatever tasty morsel with his mouth. It wasn’t long before he consistently used his fingers like the growing boy he is.
Then there are those sweet times of him distressingly crawling with his rapid slaps on our wood floors in search of me, repeating, “Mmm…Mmmeh…Mmmeh…Meh-meh…” because he cannot say “Mommy” just yet. My yearning for these sounds probably also makes me a terrible person.
And, there are the wonderfully grotesque baby kisses. Of course, there are his sparsely toothed smiles that capture what pure joy must be. Mr. Man has many smiles, but a favorite is the one stretching across his face while I smatter small kisses on his neck. I’ll never know if this smile is due to receiving affection or from his intense ticklishness, but I love it just the same.
Then there is the laughter; there need not be a reason; all of his laughter stands alone as the pinnacle of any day.
Some moments are so routine that it takes effort to value them each time they occur. It is impossible of me to grow tired of watching my son independently playing on the floor, studying his world with every object thrust in his mouth. His pleading looks enlisting me to play once he grows weary of his current object . I sit on the floor and he crawls on me, the precursor of a hug. His interference with my strength training exercises, as though for him it is code for, “Tackle!” His glee with my singing; he must be the only person to inhabit the Earth who appreciates it. The realization that I may never go to the restroom alone again, forever to wipe with little hands resting on my knee. I have countless images of loud approaching slapping hands before small eyes and a huge, happy mouth appear through a cracked door that is seconds from flinging open with one mighty effort. His delight in most foods. His curiosity with everything. He almost walks independently now, so I savor those speedy, determined pushes of the walker I thought he would never use. I love his gentle pads up my leg to a standing position. My little man crawling away from me when I attempt to wipe the streams of snot that periodically coat his upper lip.
Or the anomalies that I almost miss in the moment…almost. Times when I’m holding him as he is ready for a nap. He lays his head on my chest with outstretched arms, clinging to whatever article of clothing I happen to be wearing at the time.
The surprising elation my son has for my father that I never expected, and the looks they exchange. It’s a secret language they both share.
All those good times far outweigh the bad, but the lows can have the emotional intensity of labor. In the moment feeling endless, consumed with guilt for not singing praises of every aspect and experience of this year. Reminded that love is like that: happiness, sadness, growth.