Monday, October 29, 2012
Watching my kid sleep: New favorite pastime
I am acutely aware of the passing of time.
The days of answering the cartoon characters on TV are nearly over. The dimples on the back of the hand are nearly filled in. There will soon be no more babies in this house. Just two big boys.
I remember when the TV shows around here were limited to extra sweet themes: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Dora, Diego... Ben would sit there, transfixed, his big button-like eyes barely blinking, dutifully replying to Dora's bilingual questions, agreeing with Diego's animal-rescue plans, mimicking Mickey's dance moves. Now, we have to force him to change the channel on shows with character names like "Buttowski," involving lots of yelling, and lots of "loser" and an occasional "jerk." But Aidan will still, every once in a while, answer the Little Einsteins when one of them asks "What's your favorite animal?" or "Will you help us on a mission?" or (my personal favorite) "Do you want to go on an animal safari with us?"
The innocence of it is almost painful.
I was never one of those moms who just looooved the baby stage. I did love stuffing my nose in their necks and inhaling that perfect baby smell. I did live for the moments when they would do something new: smile, say Mama, wave bye-bye for the first time. But the rest of the time, I was exhausted, frustrated, and stressed. By the time my oldest turned into a toddler, I realized I was the kind of mom who enjoyed the older stages much more. So I spent a lot of those early days wishing I could fast forward, wondering when they would grow up a little more, counting the days until they would be more self-sufficient.
And now, here we are, nearly there. My little one is in his last year of daycare/pre-k. Next year, he goes to "real school." That's it. To me, once they are in kindergarten, they have crossed over: no longer a baby. A kid. My last baby will be all grown up.
I have never been particularly sentimental about these sorts of things. I never felt this way about my first born. I've realized that we sorta missed out on this toddler-to-3-year-old-yummy stage with Ben. Ben turned 3 a month after Aidan arrived. And Aidan was a horrible baby. (Yes, I can say that. Trust me. He was.) I am not even exaggerating when I say that the kid cried--no, wailed--for the first four and a half months of his life. I'm serious. All the time. I remember driving around with the two boys in the backseat, Aidan squealing his completely hysterical red-faced shriek for no apparent reason, and Ben sitting with his hands over his ears, his face contorted in a look of pure hate as he stared at this little wailing ball of hysteria that was his new brother. That was the day I realized that it wasn't just Mommy and Daddy who were suffering with the latest addition to the family. And once the crying subsided, there were always new "issues." Aidan had a vomiting stage that lasted months (if you think I'm exaggerating, click on this blog's Labels link...it actually has one called "Vomit.") He had a "I-refuse-to-sleep" stage. He just demanded a lot of our attention a lot of the time. Ben, on the other hand, was a very easy kid. We just didn't know it until Aidan came around.
So now, as I find myself walking into Aidan's room at night and watching him sleep, his arms up over his head in little relaxed fists, just like when he was a baby (on the rare occasion that he was actually sleeping peacefully, that is), I try to remember doing that with Ben. And I realized, recently, that I can barely recall Ben being this age at all. It dawned on me: of course, we were so busy with Aidan's first two years that we sorta passed by Ben's 3 and 4-year-old stages in a blur. We were just surviving then. There wasn't much time for sentimentality.
But now, here we are: Aidan is completely manageable and easy (except when he absolutely isn't), and Ben is like a whole little mini-adult. There are even days when we can send them both to shower and get dressed on their own, and (holy cow!) they do it! Some days they even manage to do it without any drama, screaming, fighting, or flooding of the bathroom.
So we have a little more time these days...to make dinner, read a book, watch "Dancing with the Stars," sneak into their rooms at night to watch them sleep...and contemplate the passing of time and the filling in of those little hand dimples.