My baby son spies me from the other room and lights up, first walking, then running toward me. He bears his chin into his chest as he giggles. His cup runneth over! He just can’t believe he gets to be my son and his dimples just melt my heart. He picks up speed and then trips, slapping his hands against the tile between his room and the living room where I’m waiting. He looks up to see if he should cry and asks for help with his big blue eyes. I walk to where he has fallen and scoop him up. His fallen countenance perks up immediately and he points to my chest and identifies me, “Dadda!”. I can hardly stand how much I love him and I just squeeze him tight.
He has already been through his bedtime routine and he knows he should rest. I permit a few more stories and I relish the opportunity to have such a tiny, precious, marvelous creature sit in my lap and grin each time I pick up a book. When our storytime has run out and resting is the right thing to do, I take my seat in the overstuffed living room chair.
He knows that his freedom is being restricted and he begins fighting against my will. I look at him softly and explain with gentle words and body language that resting in my arms is the best thing for him, but he rejects it. He squirms against my arms and begins writhing in pain.
It’s painful to rebel.
I continue to speak softly to him but eventually he insists on having his way instead of mine, kicking and screaming. There comes a point when to continue holding him would do more damage to him than to let him go his own way.
Though to truly let him free would require me to take down some major boundaries: the babygate blocking the steps down to the laundry room, for example, as well as the closed doors barring him from rooms containing wonders too great, complicated, powerful, or fragile for him to safely enjoy.
But I do let him put off his time to rest as he has literally made it impossible for me to help him do so.
He gets far enough away from me and turns around. When he catches a glimpse of his daddy he giggles and comes running back but stops mid-way, suddenly remembering that I want something for him that he does not want for himself. He is entirely incapable of understanding for himself what I understand about him. He has no concept of the exponential difference between his wisdom and mine. He can’t even speak coherently yet. (Though not for lack of trying.)
As he plays apart from me he falls multiple times, hitting his head and whining. Sometimes he will accept a modicum of comforting from me, but any rifts in our relationship are due to his rebellion.
Over time his exhaustion and a combination of strength and gentleness on my part win him over. After settling into my arms, we’re reconciled. He submits to my love. At first it doesn’t last, but his squirms aren’t as forceful as last time. I am able to gently force him to stay with me. In response to his frustration with this newfound restriction he snuggles into me for comfort.
My son then closes his tiny eyelids and falls asleep in my arms.
Instead of laying him down in his crib right away, I just hold him, and treasure up all of these things in my heart.