A few months ago, when he realized I was sacrificing watching Younger play football in order to help his football team, Elder walked over to me and, wrapping an arm around my shoulders and bending to touch his head to mine, murmured, “Thanks, Mom.”
And, in case you missed what I just said, he had to bend to touch his head to mine.
Which just isn’t right.
But I guess I knew the moment was coming, even thirteen years ago when I wrote…
The other night, as soon as I walked into the daycare, Elder began to communicate with me in this grating, high-pitched voice that can, for whatever unknown reason, only be used to complain, both specifically and generally. Most mothers recognize this as the “whine.” So, struggling for patience, I endured twenty minutes or so, until, standing in the kitchen at the stove with him at my side, his little head tilted back, so that the “whine” can travel the distance between his mouth and my ears just a little better, I recognized my patience was at a rather abrupt end. So, I turned to him and calmly announced, “Elder, if I have to listen to even just one more whine, I will most likely lose my patience.”
He shut his mouth, looked at me, then said, “Okay.” And he left me alone in the kitchen tending dinner.
So, things had improved slightly but only slightly. Elder still didn’t want to eat his pizza because it had cheese. Never mind that every pizza he has ever eaten has cheese. If Mommy actually makes the pizza rather than pulling it out of a box – either frozen or carryout – he doesn’t want it. Then he didn’t want his bath. Or to brush his teeth. Or Younger to look at him cross-eyed. So on and so forth.
But then it was bedtime and I lay between my two boys. Elder lay his head on my shoulder, tucked one knee on my hip, and sprawled his arm across my chest. Then he whispered, “I like this part, Mommy.”
And I whispered back, “I do, too, Elder.”
Amazing how even my worst day cannot be so bad when I can spend even a few minutes snuggled between Elder and Younger. So I lay there thankful for my blessings, loving the feel of them snuggled against me, loving the sound of their soft, even breathing, loving the sight of the peaceful faces of sleeping innocents, loving them.
But even those precious minutes are bittersweet. Because I know that too soon I will be limited to those motherly touches that are surreptitiously given and warily accepted. You know the ones I mean — where I try to smooth unruly hair and they duck away from and beyond my reach or where I lock my arm around their neck in the accepted disguise of a hug or where, in a very public place, I spit on my napkin and wipe spaghetti sauce off their chin while they perish in mortification.
And part of me will laugh and part of me will cry and all of me will remember the little boy snuggled so tight to my side whispering in my ear, “I like this part, Mommy.”
And all of me will silently whisper back, “So did I, Elder. So did I.”