Was one of those nights.
When Ethan woke up at 11pm, just as I'd turned off my own light. Those are the moments when the inside of my head pounds with "no no no! Just.go.to.sleep!!" For the love of G-d, it's been almost four years and not one night has gone by without him calling to us. In those moments, I am quietly livid at three-years-ago-me for not attempting some, any, kind of sleep training.
But then I open his door and he's sitting up, rubbing his eyes and rasping, "I'm firsty. Can I have some water?" and all of that frustration pretty much melts away. And when his finished with the water I bring him, putting it back in deep chugs, he hands me the cup and then holds his arms out for me. Cuddling up with him, his head on my shoulder and his still-a-little-baby breath puffing back into sleep, whatever frustration I felt at being roused from my bed is melted away. These are unspeakably precious moments with my little man. They won't last much longer.
Last night after he'd fallen back to sleep, that realization hit me ferociously. The reality that Ethan will be our only child is settling into the part of my brain in which irrefutable facts take up residence. There will most likely be no other little baby to cuddle and to hold as Ethan grows further into boyhood and young manhood. The thought that he will one day be too big to hold, too embarrassed to be seen showing affection sent me into what I have to imagine was a full-moon induced sob-fest.
Years ago, when we first bought Ethan his first big-boy bed, Husband recommended we get a full sized mattress. His reasoning was that one of us inevitably ends up sleeping in his room with him anyway, why wouldn't we buy a mattress that we can sleep in comfortably. Also, he said, "this way it's a big enough mattress that he can take it with him when he moves out someday."
Ethan was not quite two years old at the time. The idea that he would one day be a grown man, striking out on his own and would leave our home pretty much melted me from the core on out and I sat down on a mattress in Macy's and cried. Yeah, I know. "Alert! Crazy lady in mattress department! Alert!" But still.
That same sense of far off in the distance but still impending empty-nest syndrome socked me in the gut last night and knocked the wind out of me. Maybe if we had a second child, I wouldn't feel so desperately sad that one day Ethan will be too grown up to snuggle with. I don't know. Maybe my melancholy would be doubled or tripled depending on how many kids we had--I suppose that would make sense.
I don't know, and most likely, won't know. All I know right now is that moments like the one I had last night, my three and a half year old, dreaming next to me but growing up by the second, make me realize how precious every day, every moment with him is.
It's hard to remember that from day to day. I certainly have my moments; moments when I am tempted to run screaming from the house like my hair's on fire because he is making absolutely mental. Now and then. When he was a little baby, at the end of the day, I'd hand him off to Husband, grab my keys and leave the house, to wander the aisles of Target aimlessly or sit in a chair in Barnes and Nobles, staring absently at a mindless magazine. I know that at the time I needed that break and space from him. I know it was good for me to get out of the house and away from the bottomless pit of need that he was as a baby. But now, there is a part of me that wishes I'd cherished those moments more than run from them.
I'm sure that tonight or tomorrow, when the call of "mommmmmmy" comes through the monitor at midnight, I will still feel that momentary gnashing of teeth and the frustration of "gotosleep! gotosleep! gotosleep!!!" But I'll take a few deep breaths and try to remember how I felt last night and rather than be annoyed, try to embrace these moments and remember their fleeting preciousness.