My boy is not always a snuggler.
It was a very busy social week for my two year old. His social calendar fills up so fast!
It looked something like this: Thursday – meet at library with mom’s group to speak Spanish
Friday – meet with mom’s friend and his little friend K to play
Saturday – playdate, cook-out and hot tub with A &A and family.
Sunday – Visit and pizza with family in Medina.
Needless to say the boy slept hard on Sunday night. On the down-side, so much kid-time leads to a large increase in the chances of getting the sniffles. This is especially true in the heart of back to school season. All the kids are sharing the germs that summer had kept apart until now! Or possibly it could be the change in weather and an allergies. Regardless of source, he had a little sniffle already on Sunday evening as he got ready for bed.
Which brings me to today. Monday. This morning at about 6AM, I heard the ever so light sound of a two year old's steps at the foot of my bed. His cheeks were a little flushed (not uncommon when he is waking up) and he was sniffling. His eyes still looked bleary, so I had pity on the little guy, right?
“Come here bubba,” I said as I reached out to him. Wordlessly he held out his arms for me to pull him up into bed. His eyes were already closing as I lifted him through the air. He was forming into a compact sleeping curl as he neared the surface of the bed. By the time I had landed him, he was already sleeping hard again with a small string of drool trailing his cheek. Subconsciously, he burrowed into my side and wiggled to get comfortable.
About an hour later, I carried an infant and was trailed by the two year old down the hall to the kitchen for breakfast while mom got a few moments of uninterrupted sleep. The two year old, Charlie, moved slow and unsteady into the living room which is a marked contrast to his usual high energy sprint.
Despite being a little off his game, he behaved like a champ this morning. #1 on the potty-check. No bopping little brother – check. No waking up mom before he’s allowed – check. He had another big day on tap...adventures with mom and little brother! After I had headed off to work, early reports from mom were good…he went on the big potty as requested at mid-morning. When I checked in with mom at mid-afternoon the reports were excellent. Big adventures and good behavior!
When I got from work at 5:40 the house was completely quiet. If they were napping now it could be a bad sign. Poking my head in the bedroom, I saw my wife and the infant sleeping. Which meant that Charlie was still sleeping in his room. I read for about thirty minutes before I heard a barely audible whimper from the two-year old's room. I waited just a moment to make sure it wasn’t a “roll –over and go back to sleep whimper”. It was not.
In his room, a very disoriented boy sat bolt upright. Now he was crying. “It’s okay. Are you ready to wake up?”
“No!” and the crying intensified.
“Do you need a drink?”
In my most reassuring voice I began trying to soothe him. “You’re okay. It’s all right. You can lay back down.” The cry became a little frantic with this so I shifted tactics.
“Do you want me to open your closet door a little and let in some light?”
“Yes, please!” Really..., he said please in between the sniffs and gasps.
I walked to the closet and pulled the door open. Now I could see his red cheeks and the tears streaming down them.
“Do you want me to hold you?”
“Yes!” With that, I scooped up the boy and his blanket into my arms. I walked around the living room for a while with him clinging to me. His wispy hair pressed against my neck and one arm draped loosely over my shoulder. He motioned to the couch where I set him down.
After a little time, he began to come around enough to tell me about the new bouncy ball he had gotten.
“Where is it?”
“Under the couch, daddy!”
Easy prey for a daddy with long arms. A quick look and a scoop and the bouncy ball was clutched firmly in skinny two year old fingers. Now, he was smiling as he held the ball to his side. “Let’s go outside, dad. Play ball.”
“Why not I thought to myself? Why not?”
We got on our jackets and shoes, still interrupted by minor break downs and whimpering. Should I have kept him inside because of his sniffles…Ach, I couldn’t do it. At the top of the stairs he handed me the bouncy ball and took my hand. Methodically we descended and then headed to the park across the street.
It was cool and windy. I carried him across the street and deposited him safely on the sidewalk in the park. He broke into his characteristic sprint. His little arms swinging like a steam locomotive working a steep grade he ran about twenty yards. Then he stopped and asked me to put on his stocking cap... which I did.
He ran a little more. We bounced and kicked the ball. We made our way past the kids practicing soccer.
And then it happened. “Daddy, hold me.” Then a little more plaintively, “Hold me, daddy.” This sometimes happens in the park so I wasn’t too surprised. Another scoop and I had a two year old around my neck.
“Do you want to run now?” Usually, a minute of being held is enough for him
“No daddy. Hold me.”
He snuggled his head against me. The wind off the lake blew vigorously.
I sang a song with made up words softly into his ear. I'm not sure why. I used to make up songs for him all the time. This song was about a loved little boy with a sniffle. A little boy that loves to run. Who just got a bouncy ball. Memories of that little boy huddled close to my chest in the NICU welled up. Memories of a little boy that could only sleep if we held him followed in quick succession. Drives for feedings and his first tear flashed in my mind’s eye. First steps. First falls. Wild giggles and his bright blue eyes. A toe lit by an oxygen monitor in the hospital. Intense realization bore upon me that my boy was still all those little boy moments and baby moments and infant moments even as he snuggled in at two years old. The million past moments and the present fused in a white hot now. That little boy felt as solid and real as the whole world.
My boy is not always a snuggler, but he was today.
I paused in my improvised song to take a deep breath. A few hot tears ran down my cheeks. The wind pounded against my ears, and a small soft voice continued the song, “and the little boy likes to kick the bouncy ball.”I was glad it was so windy. That could always be an excuse.