because i'm feeling sappy


{my chunky baby jace at 8 months old}
I always know when he’s tired.
When they’re babies, you start to recognize their cries. You come to a place where you know what they’re crying about. There’s a different cry for when he’s hungry, for when he’s poopy, for when he’s in pain, and for when he’s tired.
When your first baby is born it feels like a wonderful tornado. Everything is being tossed in the wind around you and you’re just standing there in the middle of the turbulance, watching it all swirl and fly about, feeling overwhelmed while also so full of happiness that you’re just sure your heart is going to burst. At first it’s hard to figure it out the logistics of it all amidst the wonderful tornado.
But over time you become this machine. You start to recognize his cries and what they mean. You start to recognize the signs. You start to know what it is they like and how it is they like it and you feel like you’re the only one who really truly gets him. His life depends on you and you feel it in the deepest parts of your soul, that you are the reason he is alive. And also, in the most ironic form, he’s the reason you are alive. It’s a paradoxical truth that you never understood until you held him in your arms.
And then they grow.
At first they are so small that their backs fit in your hand just perfectly. At first they feel so fragile and every move you make is steady and slow and careful. You hold their heads cautiously to support their tiny necks. You watch them vigilantly while they sleep to make sure they are always breathing. You slowly slip their tiny arms into the holes of their tiny onesies. You can’t stop kissing their little toes and you can’t stop nuzzling your nose into their necks so that you can inhale the scent of their soft baby skin.
And then they grow.
Within months they grow out of their tiny onesies and their one chin becomes three. They start to laugh and they start to coo and they hold their own head up high. You sit on the sidelines as their biggest cheerleader while they learn to roll over, crawl, and then walk on their own. You chase them around as they run free. You listen to their first words. You watch in awe as this wonderful tornado keeps on swirling all around you, and it’s truly one of the most magical things, watching them grow. You not only get to be the one who shapes them into the person they will become, but you get to watch it all happen. You watch them become themselves. It’s beautiful.
He grows, and still, I know when he’s tired.
It’s not the same now as it was when he was a newborn baby and I could differentiate his cries. Now he is a little boy, growing up so quickly that some days he leaves me in the dust. He carries on conversations and he tells me new things and he makes me laugh. All of the time, he makes me laugh. But I still know when he’s tired. His eyes glaze over a little bit. He becomes over-dramatic about the little things. He turns extra clingy in a way that he pretends not to be, but as soon as I open my arms he runs into my embrace and wants nothing more than to be gripped tightly. He needs a little more attention and a little more patience and a lot of love when he’s tired.
Last night we went out to dinner with some friends and he ran wild with his buddies. When we left for home he started showing me the signs. We got home and came inside and I picked him up. He’s so very big now, and I never realize how very big he is until I pick him up. Remember when he used to fit on my hip so perfectly? I wish I had known the last time I held him so easily on my hip would be the last time.
I knew he was tired. I picked him up and I carried him upstairs. He fought it, telling me he didn’t want to go upstairs, he wanted to play outside. I told him the sun was going down and it was time to stay inside. He fought it some more.
I took him into his room while he screamed that he didn’t want to go to bed. With all of the patience I could muster, I took off his high tops while he kicked and cried. His eyes were filled with tears and he was just oh so tired. I explained that we needed to put his pajamas on. And he fought it some more.
While he flailed about dramatically and screamed in frustration I sat in his big cushioned chair next to his bed and pulled him up into my lap, pressing his cheek against my chest and hugging him tightly. He stopped fighting. He laid his head against me, slowly letting go of his tension, whimpering quietly and letting me hold him. I stroked his cheek and ran my fingers through his hair. I kissed his forehead.
And he promptly fell asleep.
As he fell into a deeper sleep, his breathing got heavier and his arms went limp. The toy helicopter he held in his hand slipped out of his fingers. I held him close and tried to remember the last time he fell asleep in my arms, which triggered in me an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. The weight of this in its sudden force practically knocked the wind out of me. At that moment I distinctly remembered the day when he fit in my arms perfectly, and slept there regularly. And wasn’t that just yesterday? As I kissed his forehead I thought about the days when it was a smaller forehead, and as I looked at his long legs folded up awkwardly in my lap I pictured him not long ago when he was half that size. It was suddenly so very emotional and I found myself getting all weepy eyed.  He grew so fast. They told me that he would, but I just wasn’t prepared for him to grow that fast.
As I sat there feeling a tad heartbroken, I was a little baffled as to why I was so emotional about it at all. And I came to the conclusion that it's truly not because I felt sad. It’s not sad, them growing up. It’s lovely and joyous and exciting.
But I’m learning that just because something is good, doesn’t mean that it’s easy. It happens so fast that it’s overwhelming, and although you love to watching them grow it also makes your heart ache a little bit. It weighs heavy when you suddenly remember that not long ago they were completely different. It’s breathtaking how quickly it passes by, how quickly they develop and mature right in front of you. I wouldn’t want to go back in time because it’s all been so very perfect, and that’s the truth of it. If you gave me the choice I'd stay right where we are now. But I think that it’s okay to feel somber and even sad when you look back on memories and realize how much they have grown.
And I suppose the truth is, typically I’m not a hugely sentimental person when it comes to change. I don’t mind change. I like the busy in life, I grow, I move on, and I’m okay with it all. In that regards, watching Jace grow up has been and continues to be exciting and fun. Every step he takes in the path of growing up is truly exhilarating for me to watch. I’m always there, always encouraging, always pleased. He’s one of my two proudest accomplishments in this life.
But I’m often completely unprepared for the emotional aspect of motherhood. I’m going along just fine, loving it and soaking it up and living life so routinely and then BAM, I’m holding my three and a half year old boy when he falls asleep in my arms and I’m hit with a forceful reminder that being a mother is this dreadfully beautiful and emotional roller coaster ride. A ride in which no matter how sad or hard or heavy it sometimes tends to be, is sincerely the most amazing and rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

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