July 11, 2007

It’s late when you return home. You pay the babysitter, who slips out the door and rides away on his bicycle into the warm night. You make yourself some tea – ginger peach, with ice cubes to stay the heat – and sit in the darkened living room, listening to the quiet, wondering how late the husband will be, thinking about how tired he will be in the morning.

Thinking about how tired you will be in the morning.

You take your tea and climb the stairs. The child was fine, the babysitter said. She cried when you left and protested his accompanying her to the park, but very quickly decided that the swing was the thing, and that it didn’t matter who accompanied her there. They had had a good evening, he said. She’d gone to sleep easily.

You stand outside her door, and listen to the soft whirr of the fan above your head. She’ll be sprawled across her bed – yes, her bed, the crib having been disdained for more sophisticated comforts – her feet pressed up against the safety bar, her arms thrown back above her head, one set of chubby fingers clutching her lovey. Long legs, long torso, long toes; her body is so much less a baby’s in sleep, her limbs stretched in full extension, a dancer frozen in mid-flight. Her face, though. In repose her cheeks bloom like cabbage roses and her mouth settles into a soft round O, a perfect little berry. You would want to nibble those cheeks, were you leaning over her, brushing soft blond wisps back from her forehead. You would want to run a finger over her impossibly pink lips. You would want to breathe in all of the baby that remains of her, breathe it in and hold it in and never exhale.

But you don’t, you won’t, because she is sleeping and because this is not your time to be with her; this is night-time, sleeptime, dreamtime.

You go into your bedroom and sit down on the bed and sip your tea, cool now from the ice. The cat winds its way around your legs, flicking its tail against the back of your knee. You think about getting ready for bed.

You didn’t say goodnight to her, of course. The babysitter would have said goodnight. She would have asked for you, though. You know this. You can hear it, almost, if you shut out the sounds of the night: the lilt of her voice, the little trill on the last syllable of ‘Mommy,’ the question hanging in the night air. Mommy?

You want to go in. You want to go in and climb into bed beside her and pull her to you and kiss the top of her head. You want to rest your hand on the swell of her belly, feel the rise and fall of her breath. You want to breathe her in. You miss her.

You don’t know why, but you miss her.

Sitting on your bed, you feel the whole of your future spill out before you like so much ribbon, unfurling onto the floor, a mess of loose tangles. You feel the unfolding distance, the lengths that will stretch between you, even as she remains within arm’s reach. You feel the future quaver in your heart, that quaver that will come when she insists that you no longer call her baby. When she asks to be left alone. When she shuts the door against you and hides away in that room, holding her mysteries tightly, pressing them against her chest and shielding them from your view.

That moment will come. You know it. You will smile bravely, if uncertainly. You will accept her distance. You will understand it. Will you hate it? You don’t know. From here, from the vantage point of this moment, it seems unbearable. You’re pretty certain that you will hate it.

But she’s here, now. So close.

You set down your tea and turn out the lights.

You tiptoe down the hall, silently, and ease open the door to her bedroom, silently, silently. You reach out in the dark and feel the curve of her back. You hear the whisper of her breathing, small sweet sighs.

You climb in beside her, and pull her to you. Quietly, quietly.



Always, yes.

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    Avalon July 11, 2007 at 2:27 pm


    Niksmom July 11, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Exquisite…and oh so true! I canno go to sleep at night without having first gone to watch and gently caress my son’s downy cheek as he sleeps. It just makes everything right in my world.

    Tara July 11, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Wow! Did you read my mind? Though you put it much more eloquently than I could. :)

    nomotherearth July 11, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    What are you doing to me, man? Don’t you know I’m enough of an emotional wreck already? Yeesh.

    BOSSY July 11, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Somewhere between That Feeling and Today, Bossy began holding her own sleep too dear.

    Laural Dawn July 11, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    That was beautiful (as always). I love watching my son sleep. It’s so peaceful.
    I’m a little frightened about him growing up also. People at work are all talking about sleepover camp (with older kids) and every time it stresses me out. How will I ever deal?

    Jen M. July 11, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Beautiful. And you won’t hate it when they start to pull away. Because they still come back, in waves, as long as we’re okay with their need to be alone. My oldest baby girl is almost a teenager and this made my heart ache. In a good way.

    SandyShoes July 11, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Lovely. Thank you.

    I’m so afraid that when my girls do their pulling away, they won’t want to come back… because I never did.

    But: I am not my mother, and they are not me.

    In the meantime, it’s all I can do not to climb in the crib some nights.

    becks July 11, 2007 at 3:22 pm


    Phoenix July 11, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    I don’t know how to do that whole Blogger Perfect Post award or even if I can nominate you. But this was a perfct post. Absolutly beautiful.

    Tuesday Girl July 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Perfectly said.

    I think sleeping babies and kids are what gets us up for doing it again the next day.

    painted maypole July 11, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Excellently put. I still call the May Queen “Baby,” even though she is 4.75 years old. The time will be drawing to a close soon, I am sure, and I will mourn it.

    nonlineargirl July 11, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Funny, my cardinal rule used to be “don’t do anything to wake the sleeper.” But now I take my chances, poke my head in her room so that I can see her sprawled and snoring.

    You are so good at tapping into what’s hidden in my head. While away for a few days, I thought a lot about whether she was asking for me, what she thought when I wasn’t there to answer her call.

    NotSoSage July 11, 2007 at 3:51 pm


    I went through this exact thing last night. Thanks for putting it all down so coherently, that jumble of heartbreak and sweetness.

    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Completely and totally exquisite. Exactly what I think every night when I check on my son. Every chance I get to hold him in sleep, I take. He’s three now and I know the rocking him to sleep times are so fleeting.

    ~JJ! July 11, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Jesus woman. How do you do that?

    You catch it. Always.

    Lawyer Mama July 11, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Aw, crap, HBM! You’ve made me cry again.

    That was beautiful.

    I miss my boys the same way. Every night after they go to sleep I have the urge to go in and hold them, while I still can.

    mothergoosemouse July 11, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Amazing how grown up they seem, sprawled out in their beds, and yet the look on their sleeping faces is the same one they had as a baby. It surprises me every time I see it.

    Kyla July 11, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    You said it perfectly. So perfectly.

    Jezer July 11, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    So, so sweet.

    People think that we cosleep because it is what Alex wants. The truth is this: after I put him to bed in his very own crib every night, more often it is the Mr. or I who scoops him up and brings him to bed, and less often it is he who cries out for us.

    Sandra July 11, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    This is another STUNNING piece of writing. Really.

    AndreAnna July 11, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    Beautiful tears.

    Magpie July 11, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    Lovely. And like Jezer said, it’s one of the reasons we co-sleep. Not that she’ll have it any other way…but I don’t protest.

    daysgoby July 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    Oh, C.


    Little Monkies July 11, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    That’s the exact feeling I’m having about babygirl at this moment.


    Julie Pippert July 11, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    And my heart just flipped over in my chest. We think we have grand all sewn up uniquely and then we read our deepest emotions on someone else’s blog. :)

    sam July 11, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Love, love, love

    OMG! Love

    Wonderful post C. Perfect is every way.

    Oh, The Joys July 11, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    You are on a roll of the deep, deep loveliness.

    Mrs. Chicky July 11, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    This post made me ache. In a good way.

    slouching mom July 11, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    Oh so lovely.

    I know.

    I’m sorry to say it gets harder as they get older.

    wordgirl July 11, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Honestly…that was just…beautiful!

    flutter July 11, 2007 at 10:07 pm


    jen July 11, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    i did this last night, this very similar thing.

    Two Shews July 11, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    This took my breath away. Wonderbaby is one lucky girl.

    Jess Riley July 11, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    A post to savor. Simply…lovely.

    Jenifer July 12, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Chills. And sad. And happy too.

    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 12:35 am

    today is my oldest child’s 5th birthday and this hits home. So many emotions in me tonight and you described them so beautifully. perfect timing. Thank you for this. I’m going to go cry now. Achy, conflicted and yet happy tears :)

    ewe are here July 12, 2007 at 1:45 am

    Ahhhh. I posted pics of my sleeping boys today, too. They are just so lovely when they sleep. So lovely.

    AuthorMomWith Dogs July 12, 2007 at 7:37 am

    It’s hard to leave each stage behind, never to be again with that child. That’s the curse. The blessing is that motherhood also moves on with new treasures awaiting us even as babyhood moves on.

    Even though we moms know this, it’s often of little help…

    Mama V July 12, 2007 at 8:36 am’s totally unfair that you can make me cry at my desk first thing in the morning. My coworkers think I’m nuts…
    But thank you… I couldn’t have put it better myself!

    Aliki2006 July 12, 2007 at 9:19 am

    I so relate to this–this need to have your “baby” close while sleeping, to see her one last time before going to bed.


    kgirl July 12, 2007 at 9:33 am

    oh, I’m so so glad you climbed back in.

    (wiping tears)

    Amy July 12, 2007 at 9:44 am

    Wow. That was lovely. I know those feelings so well.

    But I only dream of writing them like that.

    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Sigh. You made me cry in my Cheerios.

    Mimi July 12, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Well. Ain’t that the truth. It’s me, too, right down to the iced tea and the cat. Only I don’t go in — I’m not sure why. I wonder, I guess, if it hurts more to give in, if I’m trying to steel myself for what’s going to come later. I guess, too, maybe I don’t want myself to neeeeeeeed her so much. Don’t want to admit that I do. I do.

    pkzcass July 12, 2007 at 11:00 am

    I still go in to see my 11 and 8 year old boys, and I’m sure I’ll go in when they’re 21 and 18. It never ends…only changes.

    Lovely post.

    Suburban Kamikaze July 12, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Very nice.


    Mrs. Chicken July 12, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Yes. Just yes.

    kittenpie July 12, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    I have been feeling so much of this lately, as she turns into a preschooler, gaining confidence in her new room of older kids, gaining inches and longer limbs.

    I’m sure this is why teenagers have to be so odious, so that they can drive us away a bit.

    Beck July 12, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    That is too, too beautiful. Their absolute vulnerablity when they’re sleeping is the most heartbreaking thing in the world.

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