As I write this, my son is quietly snoring to the sound of a heart beat noise machine, diaper-clad and flushed from the summer heat. I have just put him back in his crib after he woke up crying, needing, wanting comfort and water.
Comfort and water.
Sounds like a simple enough request.
And for once, tonight, it was enough. He literally fell asleep in my arms, which is something that usually only happens when he is sick. For once, instead of pushing his thick fingers away from me and performing impressive body contortions within in my grasp, I was enough to comfort him.
We have just returned from a camping trip and have beautiful moments to look back on – a toy jeep at full-capacity being driven by gleeful children, an epic water balloon fight in which everyone inevitably became drenched, splashes in the pool and tired eyelids by the campfire.
But since coming home from our grand adventure, I have had less positive things on my mind. Honestly, what I cannot stop thinking about is my son’s flailing body wrapped in my arms as I carried him, mid-tantrum, to our tent trailer, zipping up paper windows, his shrieks carrying far beyond the canvas that surrounded us. His tear-streaked face is etched in my brain, his sobs and shaking body lie heavy in my heart. Of course, nothing I did could console him.
No sippy cup, soother, rocking or singing.
Any offerings only made him shriek louder.
There was nothing I could do to make him stop crying, because a one-and-a-half-year-old is just not capable of understanding my logical explanations. He didn’t understand why I had to move him to quieter ladder at the pool so he could resume going up and down, up and down. He could not grasp that he should have an afternoon nap so that he could enjoy his evening well-rested.
Instead he proceeded to act as though I was branding him with a hot poker.
And I inwardly thought to myself, “what sort of mother am I?” A mom who can’t console her own child? A mom who cannot handle her own child’s tantrums? A mom who wishes she could be more? I mom who doesn’t know her child’s cues for tiredness or hunger?
I have become that mom. One who cannot control her child’s behaviour. One who lets her child run wildly, over and over to the neighbouring campsite without so much as a shrug in her shoulders. She has been beaten down by the thought of shrill screams and tiny feet pounding the Earth, always to get farther away, never closer.
It is exhausting.
It tests my resolve.
But then I look down at him, his body resting on my stomach and his face meandering down my arm, and I’m barely able to tell if he’s breathing he is so still. I take in his long eyelashes, perfect ears and the roll under his chin that seems to catch more dirt than air. And then I think of his sly grins and his perpetual skinned knees, and how independent he tries to be and how quick he is to master a skill.
He is wonderful in so many ways.
And then I understand: He is trying to accomplish great things within the restraining world as a toddler. He needs my help, but he doesn’t understand it yet.
So I will relish this small but meaningful moment with my son, lying on my chest at peace. I will keep it at the forefront when he is going through something I cannot fix. I will hold his flailing body and hold tighter when he pushes away.
Because he really does love me.
Because he needs me to be stronger than he is.
Because there are no words that can express the love I have for him, my son, who tests my patience every single day.