Yesterday, you wouldn’t brush your teeth. I handed you the toothbrush, and you smacked it out of my hand, spraying toothpaste all over the bathroom.
The other day
The other day, you wouldn’t get in your car seat, so we sat in the car for an hour and waited, until you were ready, until I couldn’t wait anymore, and just as I was buckling you in, you changed your mind and tried to fling yourself out of the seat. Instead, you remained suspended, tall enough to stand on the floor of the car and still be partially and -I imagine- uncomfortably buckled across the chest but not actually sitting safely in your seat. Eventually, we did make it out of that parking lot with both of us safely and securely fastened. When we got home, to my dismay, you refused to get out of the car seat that I had just spent the last hour and half trying to get you into.
A few days ago
A few days ago, you wanted to stay in bed and snuggle, but the alarm clock had never gone off, so we were already running late. I needed to get dressed, but you kept ripping the clothes from my hands and pushing the dresser drawers closed. I had to lock myself in the bathroom in order to get ready for school. You pounded on the outside of the door so hard I was worried you would hurt yourself.
These are the moments when my parenting skills find themselves at the edge of an enormous cliff. What am I supposed to do now?! I have explained. I have comforted. I have bargained, and usually at this point I have also tried bribes and threats (or in parent speak: rewards and consequences), but ultimately, whether we like it or not, these things still have to get done. It’s illegal to drive with a child not in a car seat. I don’t have the money or the interest in paying to get cavities filled due to poor dental hygiene. If I don’t go to school and do my job, I cannot support our family.
Last night I ran a bath for you. You requested bubbles. I carried you into the bathroom, but upon reaching our destination, you decided you were not interested in taking a bath. We talked about it for a while, and you decided you would rather have a bath with your clothes off than with them on, which at this point, were the options I gave you. After taking off your shirt, you were once again unconvinced of the virtue of bathing, buried your head in my lap and declared you only wanted to be held. I suggested that I could get in the bath with you, which seemed like a good idea, until I had already undressed and was getting in. Hysteria ensued. With literally one foot in the bathtub and one foot out, and you in my arms, I came to the conclusion that this was a losing battle. I stepped out of the bathtub, set you down, and redressed myself. Scooping you back up into my arms, I sat on the edge of the bathtub holding you. I held you for a longtime without saying anything… mostly because I didn’t know what to say.
Finally, I relented: “Well, if we are not going to take a bath, let’s at least go sit somewhere more comfortable.” You looked up at me with tear-streaked cheeks, sniffled and said: “The couch is a very comfortable place to sit.” So I carried you to the couch and sat down. You burrowed yourself into the curve of my lap, and I wrapped you up in my arms. We both gave a little sigh of surrender, and in one deep breath, you were asleep.
While you slept there, cradled in my arms, I remembered holding you for the first time and all of the countless hours I held you while you slept as an infant. Then I thought about all of the hours I have spent not holding you lately because I’ve been too busy, because you are too heavy, because I am too tired…
In some perfect universe, my arms would always be free to hold you for as long as you needed and somehow all of the dishes and laundry would get washed, meals would get made, groceries bought, homework read and written, grades entered, exams marked, but for now, I just have this. This one sweet moment to hold you while you sleep, and I silently pray for it to be enough.