December 15, 2006
When my childless friends ask what it's like to be parent, I often say that it's like being in a boat lost in fog, but then you figure some tiny thing and the fog clears to reveal a full moon over a calm sea.
Tonight was one of those nights.
Our son fell asleep normally, but kept waking up and crying for his mom. After the 3rd or 4th trip downstairs for my very pregnant, very tired wife, I volunteered to take a shift. The minute our son saw me instead of his mom, he started crying inconsolably.
Now if you've never seen a 2 year old cry, especially a kid like ours who is pure sugar, it's like watching all the sadness in the world poured into this little pup of a human being. There is no anger, no reproach, just pure unfiltered sorrow. So I try to hold him and he just turns away, giant tears streaming down his cheeks. "No daddy. Noooo..."
There is one school of parenting that says, offering comfort in these situations is exactly the wrong thing to do, that you need to steel yourself and be hard and that by going cold turkey the child will learn to sleep by himself. We tried that once or twice and our son sobbed so hard he started throwing up. He was a headbanger as an infant until we brought him to our bed. The headbanging stopped immediately. The kid is just a people person.
Anyway he was sobbing, crying for his mom, and I told him if he felt sad to hold my hand. His hand reached out, grabbed my finger and squeezed it hard. I asked him if he felt better, and he nodded. He turned to me and through a stream of alligator tears said, "Up. Up. Momma. Momma." I told him his mother needed to rest and eat dinner which led to more gulping heaving sobs. He turned away again. He was trying to keep it together, but not doing a very good job of it, with cycles of crying and wails. This went on for a long time and I was about to break down and call for Jenn. Then I whispered, "Hey, I'll hold you until your mom comes to bed, however long it takes. You can hold me too." He turned to me, gave me the tightest hug a kid his size can give, rested his forehead against mine, and held my face with both his hands. The tears stopped, he gave me a kiss, closed his eyes, and fell into deep slumber. That was all there was too it. He didn't want to be alone tonight. And who does really?