I’m finishing up a painting when I hear Jimmy muttering from his bed. Surely he’s not awake because he is bold and loud when he is. His hand must have fallen asleep so I lay him back down and snuggle next to him. Propped up on one elbow, with my other arm rubbing the pins and needles out of his hand, I can’t deny how much of this bed he suddenly occupies. There are long, capable limbs everywhere. The weight of his new hair is starting to quiet his cowlicks and his generally roosterish hair-do isn’t very roosterish at all.
He is fitful and anxious, but still semi-asleep. He flips his hand over mine to stop the motion and puts my hand on his belly, laying his hand over my forearm like a dog guarding a toy. Amused that he is in as much command asleep as he is when awake, I look down at my boy as he yawns. It was that brand new baby yawn; their nose disappears into a teeny button and they let out a whispered roar that is so scrumptious it renders you defenseless to all of the abuse they are about bring in the form of relentless servitude. That yawn. My giant boy did that yawn.
I look down at all the brush strokes on my sleeve and remember wearing it the night before he was born. I had been working on a painting and could only button three buttons before my giant belly burst out. It was January and we lived on the third floor. I was so ready to have him that I abandoned all sense of appropriate clothing choices.
It stopped my heart. I’m a sucker for baby yawns, but this one just struck me. My dad nicknamed Jimmy the White Tornado and it fits him perfectly. His white blonde hair is a blur as he flies by. Afraid of nothing, with a penchant for adrenaline rushes, at age 2.5 this boy is lightyears away from babyhood. I have such mixed feelings when I look back on that first year. I fell so hard in love with him because it was the most extreme year of my life. He was my second child, but my first tornado.
My first, Michael, was born a citizen of the world, eager to enjoy his people and the constant fun they were sure to provide him. While he certainly enjoyed our company in the world, the presence of his parents was not crucial to his happiness or navigation. After all, life is a parade and surely someone else would pass by if he needed help, right? He was a simple equation, an open book, and through toddlerhood, he handed out answers more frequently than problems. Michael was our Red Solo Cup in a Pull-up.
Our second, Jimmy, on the other hand, was born the citizen of his world. My husband and I were necessary inhabitants, essential to the minute-to-minute operations of his world but with little actual control. He was born with skepticism and an unwavering conviction in his own feelings. We were the befuddled gatekeepers to his world, relying heavily on hunches and hope to dodge the meltdowns.
His physical need for me truly shocked me, and it took me a long time to even realize that the term “momma’s boy” didn’t begin to cover it. He required touch in a completely different way than I ever expected. He wanted to be tight in my arms or swinging from the chandelier. Many times, I would just rock and sway and keep him company in the chaos of his little body. I wasn’t so much a respected leader as I was a court jester. He would kick me out and beg me to come back in the same breath. As unpredictable he seemed at times, he was pure and rich, ooey gooey love. His unabashed joy was so infectious that it kept us on a mad dash to find it again, desperate to keep the shit and the fan in separate corners.
We have shared several hundred 3 am’s. Somewhere in there, we found some things that make his world a better place, including hardcore workouts, loads of furry animals ready to be de-fuzzed strand by strand, intense thumb-sucking, and swapping lullabies for marching bands. Why request a soft, “rock-a-bye baby” when your mom will sing Irish drinking songs while firmly drumming your back? The lovely therapists from Early Intervention would later shed some light on sensory processing issues, and help us make sense of our hunches. I wanted to kiss them. But not before I kissed Jimmy some more. Our little tornado knows how to keep on truckin’.
So tonight, as I look down at this little big guy and I’m struck by the fact that we are so far from where we were when that yawn belonged to a newborn or even a toddler. He is laying in the scattered proof of a contented soul: wearing the pajama pants that sat in his drawer for year, warming up to them just in time for them to become shorts, his faded blue nail polish that he sat so still for, the stuffed chipmunk next to his head whose fuzzy tail is still intact, the book he hid under the blanket, the weighted blanket at his feet because he doesn’t need it on his body tonight. All of it, he is just so much comfier in his own body. So many nights he just couldn’t rest, and he just couldn’t release me from his white-knuckle grip. Tonight his palms are softly open, showing off a thumb sucker’s callous because it is nowhere near his mouth.
I can’t say we are free of our 3 am rendevous, but they are 1000 times more peaceful than they were.
Sweet Jimmy, thanks for the tiny snapshot of the old you. I’m grateful to be in your joyful twister 🙂 And I’m even more grateful that you are, indeed, asleep.