“Daaaaaaaddy! Daaaaaaddy!” He calls from his crib, the word getting more and more urgent.
It’s funny. On the nights he calls for Daddy, I’m the only one who hears. And on the nights he calls for Mommy, I’m dead to the world. He doesn’t seem to mind though, as long as one parent comes to get him.
“What do you need, Buddy?” I ask.
“I need to go potty,” he tells me, his body beginning to wiggle with urgency.
Swiftly, I pick him up and carry him to the bathroom. So sleepy, he is just a participant in this, even though it’s all about him. When I finally zip his soft footie pajamas back up to his chin, he whispers something so quiet I’m not sure if it’s a real sentence or a sleepy nonsense mumble.
He stands on the bathroom floor, yawning and rubbing his messy hair, saying that whisper. I bend my neck down so my ear is right in front of his mouth and ask him to say it again. It takes two more tries until I hear the word “cuddle” mixed somewhere in his otherwise-silent sentence.
“You want to cuddle with me?” I ask.
“Sure, Baby,” I say and wash his hands for him.
Then I scoop him up and melt at the feeling of his head, heavy with sleep, on my shoulder.
I lay him down in the middle of the bed, and he immediately takes up the entire space where I normally sleep. I scoot him over and climb in next to him.
He wakes enough to greedily grab at the blankets as I try to situate the two of us on my side of the bed. Once he’s covered to his satisfaction, he nestles into me. I lie on my side, one hand across my middle, the other resting on the crook of his knees. He has positioned his head in my neck, his hands folded under his chin.
He is already breathing deeply.
His body is still so small, I can reach down and touch his toes without stretching. How is this possible, when he has recently outgrown all the clothes in his closet? How can he still be so little?
Soon, my breathing matches his, and I don’t even feel myself slip into dreamland.
Two hours later, I stir and see him still there — still close, still breathing deeply.
Thinking of how early my husband and I wake up in the morning, I know this little 3-year-old needs to return to his own bed so he won’t be woken too early.
Oh practicalities — the destroyer of all perfect moments.
He doesn’t protest as I again scoop him up, his head again falling heavily to my shoulder. I take my time walking the few feet back to his room and slowly settle him back into his crib.
Softly, I whisper the three phrases he insists upon each night as we tuck him in. “Good night. Sweet dreams. I love you.” He blearily repeats them back to me, as he always does, only this time I know the phrases are mingled with the dreams behind his closed eyes.
After I quietly close his door, I peek in on my 9-year-old down the hall. She nearly fills her bed, while her 6-year-old sister across the way likewise spreads out comfortably in her sleep, taking up far more inches than seems possible. Yet, they all look so small as they slumber.
Since my children have aged out of the wakeful nights of feeding and crying for comfort, these midnight potty runs are not the nuisance I may have expected them to be. I’m well rested now, and it doesn’t hurt so much to wake in the night lately. Instead, these quiet interruptions in the night are rare little pockets of time that remind me to be gentler when the sun comes up.