Toddlers are exhausting. They are sweet, funny, adventurous, quirky and surprising. But they are also constant, moving, needing, questioning… exhausting. Mommies do a lot more giving than receiving, and at the end of the day, our tanks (both physical and emotional) are often running on fumes.
Well, this mommy refuels on cuddles. (And the occasional glass of wine… but mostly cuddles.) I think it started with the 10:30 p.m. dream feeds. My goodness, I loved those moments. Curled up in the nursery with a sleeping baby in my arms, pulled tightly against me, chubby little hand resting on my chest. I let those dream feeds go on much longer than Oliver needed. He could’ve slept through the night months before I dropped that last feeding… but I needed it.
And even after he’d been fully weaned, his little body would stir like clockwork at 10:30 p.m., his internal clock as reliable as any physical clock. It was just a stir; he could almost always put himself right back to sleep. But I went in anyway… because I needed it.
Now here I am tonight, cracking the door open at 10:30 p.m. It’s been a long day. Between an iPad deployment meeting before school, a full day of teaching, and Back to School night this evening, it was a 14.5 hour workday. I haven’t seen Oliver since bedtime last night… and I need him. I need extra cuddles.
I stand in the middle of the room, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then the glow of the night light illuminates my sprawled-out two and a half year old, head at the wrong end of the bed. I smile and walk toward him, noticing the bright green slipper socks on his feet. He can’t go to bed without socks on, and if we forget, he lets us know loud and clear, hollering about his cold feet through the monitor. I notice his blanket, tangled up and bunched under him. A few hours ago, it would have been gently draped over him, everywhere except his feet. Again, he lets us know loud and clear – “but not my feet!” I guess this is why he needs the socks. And I see the extra blanket, so gingerly draped over Hippo and “Butt” (his purely innocent name for the Neverbeast stuffed animal Grandma bought him). Meow Cat is uncovered, but closer to his head, never more than inches away.
Every detail I see fills me up just a little bit.
Then I slip into his tiny toddler bed, curling my legs up to fit next to him. And I notice how tall he is now. And how his hands lie gently clasped together above his head. I remember when his arms couldn’t even reach the top of his head, and he would turn his head, nuzzling into one of them, curving it around the side of his face. His fingertips barely reached his temple.
Every bit of him fills me up.
We lay there, him breathing deeply and me listening to the sound of crickets coming from his sound machine. We let him choose the sound when we first bought it and he picked bugs of all things. You’d think it would drive a person crazy, but I’m not sure I could sleep anymore without the sound of soft chirping coming from the monitor on my night stand.
Each slow breath fills me up.
And when I think I can’t feel any more restored, he turns to me, opens his eyes just a crack, and says “I wuf you.”
I am full. My heart is full.
If I linger much longer, I know I’ll get a sticky palm to the face and a slow, deliberate push, accompanied by, “Mama, doh. You doh night night.”
So I slip out, feeling refueled and blessed beyond measure. It won’t be too many nights before I slip back in, soaking up extra cuddles in the stillness.