We sit like this nearly every day around 5 p.m. As the end of the day nears he needs a break but often won’t heed the call of his crib. Instead we sit together, quietly, both of us winding down.
Five months in, we have a lot of practice at this dance. I hold him facing me and slip him onto his right side. He tucks his right arm under my left and wraps it around my waist, then places his head snugly in the crook of my arm as I make space for him. His small mouth opens into an ‘o’ as he waits for a soother. I have one waiting; I give it to him and then pull him close.
I sway slightly and he follows my lead, but I don’t talk and I don’t sing. This isn’t the time for whispered stories.
Occasionally he dozes, but today he just stares blankly out the window, his need to turn down the sensory dial so like my own.
He breathes quietly. I can feel his tummy pressing into mine – in and out, in and out.
Suck, suck, suck goes the soother. Then a pause. He’s watching shadows.
He doesn’t look at me, but he does stroke my chest. A recent development, he traces the line just below my collarbone, first in one direction, then the other, a rhythmic reassurance.
His hands are small and soft and chubby, his knuckles still just dimples.
Fully relaxed, he drops his soother and I can feel his breath on my left cheek. It smells like milk, and him.
I’m aware in these moments how precious this time is, how quickly the months will pass until one day we won’t fit just right anymore. He is part of me, this child. He is my own soft breath. He is the lump in my throat.
There are other things that make him who he is, of course – his wide, wide toothless smile and his giggle, laughing on the inhale. His love of stories. His enchantment with song.
But this is what I will most remember. Years from now I will feel his warmth and his weight on my arm. I will remember what it’s like to have a small tummy pressed to mine. I will remember his sweet breath and be glad we had this time, just the two of us, when he was small and we fit just so.
Like I did with Connor, this is an attempt to capture Ethan using descriptors of how I see him in this place and time based on a writing exercise from Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers*. (And, since I first wrote this, he’s stopped needing this cuddle, which makes me sad but also very glad I wrote about it.) As with Connor’s piece, I’ve deliberately chosen not to include an image in this post and have instead focused on the words.
(*Same deal: Damn right that’s an affiliate link. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to work on their writing (whether a mother or not) and if you buy it I want the two pennies I’ll get from having steered you towards something fabulous.)