Tonight, however, was different. I was holding him as usual, rocking to the lullabies, as his eyes were getting heavy. His blinks became slower, his eyes opening less and less each time, as the rest of his perfect little face began to relax as well. His mouth opened in a crooked little yawn, and he melted into my arms, growing heavier with each deepening breath. He took a few sucks from a phantom bottle (or breast?), falling further into sleep.
I found myself overcome with love. I wanted to ball him back up into the tiny little cantaloupe he used to be when he lived inside of me, and tuck him away inside my belly all over again. I wanted to hold him there forever, "Schlaf, Kindlein, Schlaf" be damned!, and never, ever, ever let him grow or change any more than he already has. I wept.
Why do I love him so much when he is asleep? He is such a busy toddler during the day: always rearranging our apartment (he seems to think that the items from our Recycling bin should be peppered around the apartment rather than gathered together in the bin, for example), eating things he shouldn't (e.g., cat food), or trying to build his expertise as a climber (he is part mountain goat). These moments are frustrating, to be sure, but I think it's too simple to say that's why.
Because it's also while he's awake that he gives hugs (so many!), shares all his snacks and toys with us, plays along with our silly jokes (I'm sure my jumping around the corner a million times isn't really that startling or funny, but it always gets a reaction!), and gives us that giggle that makes whatever it is that we were worrying about a moment ago a thing of no consequence. It's while he's awake that we see him learning new things every day. It's while he's awake that we see him turning into the new and ever-changing version of himself, that we are fascinated by his growth and development. So why do I love him so much, lying there, heavy in my arms?
He isn't doing anything.
I think that's precisely it.
He doesn't have to do anything for me to love him. In fact, even though he does so many adorable, fun, and amazing things every day, those distract me from seeing him. The infant I met 13 months ago had very few of the skills my busy toddler now exhibits, yet I loved him, too. And when I see that toddler sprawled across my lap, his beautiful dark lashes guarding those green-brown eyes, his mouth in a perfect, tiny little pout, and his button nose punctuating such innocence, such magnificence . . . I also remember the tiny newborn version of him. We knew nothing about him, and yet, we loved him. When he sleeps, there is nothing else to distract us from him. And each time I catch a glimpse of him dozing, his breathing deep and measured, or hear him sigh contentedly in his sleep, my love for him grows.
I suppose it will (and must) continue to grow, to accommodate bigger challenges as well as bigger triumphs. My love will need to grow so that the first time he decorates the walls with crayon, or gets sent to the principal's office, or gets escorted home by the police, I will be fully equipped to love that version of my sweet son. It will need to grow so that when he finally learns how to say, "I love you, Mama," or picks a bouquet of "flowers" / weeds from our yard for me, or dedicates his Nobel prize to his father and me, that my heart will be ready to accept all that love.
And I think that's why, when he sleeps, I feel so much love for him.
My love, just like his little body as he sleeps, is growing.
*CDs are what people used before they could put all their music on their computer, phone, or brain chip it's