On the eve of my son’s 4th birthday, I managed to give him the present one boasts about as an adult. The present that outlasts, that outdoes, that outshines all others. I didn’t even know that I was going to give it to him until he had unwrapped it.
It’s hard to predict how a day goes. There are nights I get very little sleep. These are not nights to complain about. There are nights I get even less sleep than very little and it’s hard not to moan about those. There are familial stresses and tensions. My daughter has taken to telling me very long, very boring stories with no climax and I have to nod dutifully to be supportive but I am actually memorizing cracks in the sidewalk. There are parental and marriage woes, mostly to do with the lack of time, the lack of grace, the lack of 2 bathrooms. Breakfasts, lunches, backpacks, flyers, agendas, behaviour, fatigue, rivalries, meals, lessons, hobbies, video games, laundry, dog walks, social texting, cleaning – it’s all a bit much.
Come bedtime, my kids are lucky if I still look human. They’re also lucky if I have the energy to do the right things, like read books, tuck in, and give a kiss.
But tonight. On the eve of his birthday there was just enough in the tank and I made it. The glorious moments I had with him. His laughter. His hilarious observations. His facial expressions. His ability to follow impulses and watch him recognize that they got a laugh, then milk it a bit more. His laugher at himself.
His present was that I was there. I let bedtime go on too long, and his reward was watching his mother relax and release with giggles. He so rarely sees that, and it was a joy to let him experience it after a tough slog of uphill battles.
The memory will escape him by tomorrow, he’ll have no recollection of this night we shared. But it’s there somewhere, tucked in both our sub consciousnesses, ready to fuel us when we’re running on empty.
Mom whats it going to feel like?
My birthday. How long will it take you to set up?
It’s not your party tomorrow. It’s just your birthday.
It’s my birthday on this day?!
No, my sweet. Tomorrow. It’s your birthday for the whole day.
A whole day? And then I’m going to be 4? (so many vowels jammed into that word. I don’t know how he does it)
That’s right. When did you get to be so big?
Hmmm, I got so big because I eat all my dinner.
Can I smell your armpit?
Will it smell bad?
We don’t want things to smell bad. Not our penis, not our feet, not our belly button, not our…
Just smell it.