I cradle his head in my forearm, his droopy eyes and fat cheeks soft. I lay my cheek against his and smell his quick honey breath. It’s a small space between love and hurt because sometimes I want to squeeze him so tight the air squishes out and I’m left with a rag doll and I think how can I love this boy until the end of time? I rock and rock like a ticking clock even though he’s asleep by now because I don’t want to break the spell. I praise God for this magic who is a blessing.
At midnight I hear his cries, the pacifer, I dropped it, momma, and I run into shush him back. And when he crawls into my king-sized dreams I welcome him in, even though he kicks and pats my face and says in a whisper are you awake? Are you awake, momma? He flips and tucks and pats me to sleep because that is the world of one who is two.
But I’m awake and angry at this boy for always yelling and kicking and screaming I want dat and never listening to my incessant pleas. I want to make it stop as I run him back to the time-out chair. Teeth are for chewing, not for sister’s arm, I say as I pull him back to a place of reverence. He pouts and swings his legs and says he’s sorry. He wraps his arms around my parched throat and says I wuv you mommy and I am suddenly filled, love pouring and drenching and filling what was never really empty to begin with.
Having a little girl is sweet and pink and bubbly but having a son is a different animal and it’s an Achilles heel. I want to stay hunkered down in his devotion and I place my hand over his little child kisses like I can preserve them there, fossils of when mommy was everything and nothing else mattered. I want them tattooed on my cheek so I can see them there and weep.
This love cripples me so. Someday he will leave – they both will – and it reminds me again that there’s a small space between love and hurt and sometimes they happen at the same time and that’s okay. So I rock and shush and sing and pray. Lord help me see the beauty of spilled juice and toilet paper heaps and rocking babies. It’s so precious and warm and soft.
Hurt or no hurt, it’s more love after all.