If I’m not already nursing Oscar in the rocking chair, in the corner of our room, by 5:30am, Josh nudges me awake. He needs me to get Dylan out of bed and ready for him to take to daycare by 6:15am, while Josh gets ready for work. In whatever state of grogginess this finds me in at that hour, I emerge from our room in a dutiful slow march that could otherwise be described as “mom-mode.” No other responsibility in my life has moved me with such force: not early morning crew practice when I rowed for the freshman novice team at UW (many a morning, in fact, did I miss practice entirely due to the previous late-night’s antics…); not a 7:30am Tai Chi course I registered for my senior year in college, thinking it would be a good way to get up and get my day going; not even my first few years out of college, working at a “real job,” motivated me to get out of bed the way my responsibility to my kids motivates me. But that’s probably because I get so much more in return for following through on this one.
Take this morning, for example: as I opened the door to Dylan’s room and bent down to put the changing pad back on the changing table (something we have to remove every night, else Dylan drags it into his crib with him for some unknown reason…), I saw his not-so-little body hunched over in his favorite sleep position: head down, knees tucked under his belly, butt in the air. Every time I see him like this it makes me laugh. I leaned over his crib to rub his back and he quickly responded by sitting, then standing up, and reaching for me. I picked up my 17-month old and marveled at just how solid he is, how big he’s become. How did this happen? When did he grow so much? He didn’t seem this heavy just two weeks ago when, at 41 weeks pregnant, I was picking him up and getting him out the door for daycare just like normal. But now, after almost two weeks of holding little Oscar, my little Dylan doesn’t seem so little anymore. In fact, he’s huge. His legs are meaty little drumsticks; his feet are long and his toenails are gnarly; his head full of curly locks is actually bigger than my nursing breasts – something Oscar won’t compare to for some time. And he babbles with full, conversational inflection. Certainly, he thinks he’s saying something important, because he nods his head for emphasis and punches his fists in a downward motion, as if campaigning for office. Still, I snuggle my Dylan onto my shoulder and, in the early morning quiet, with the humidifier steaming away and the starry night nightlight lending a soft, lime green glow to our faces, I hold my first baby and try not to lose it (remember: still awash in post-partum hormones here…).
I’m easily moved to tears at the realization that Dylan is not a baby anymore, and yet he is. I cried the same tears when he first came to visit Oscar in the hospital two weeks ago and I was not strong enough to pick him up just yet. He wanted to tug at my IV ports in my wrist and nurse at the same time. He’s at once a little boy and a baby: he’s the physical manifestation of this powerful time of transition. He loves to say “baby” and give Oscar “kisses” to his stomach or head or foot, but he’s also more interested in carrying baskets around the house and making noise on the harmonica and getting into and out of and into cardboard boxes.
As I hold him close, before he’s fully awake, and before I have to say goodbye to him for the day so I can get to know our new baby and (hopefully, mercifully) catch up on last night’s interrupted sleep, I nestle my nose into the back of his neck – that super soft space where he’s still very much a baby – and whisper I love you. He lifts his face to mine, kisses me, and snuggles back into the crook of my neck. I think to myself that this is a moment in time I’d like to freeze, and that if he didn’t weigh so much, I might actually let the moment last a bit longer. But, instead, I lay him down to change his diaper and send him down for breakfast. The clock ticks by, time marches on, and so must we.