It’s no secret that Connor has been sneaking into our bed at night. We will be sleeping blissfully only to have a pair of little feet jabbing into one of our backs like he’s running fast down a dirt path. Or he will suddenly flop perpendicular across us, forming a human H that pushes the boundaries of our mattress. Or he will suddenly gurgle a repeating round of words; I think this morning it was something about Lightning McQueen or dinosaurs or jello – something that he really digs these days. It’s exhausting and frustrating and some days downright infuriating. Yet, the thought of him not doing those things scares me. I put off his first haircut for as long as I could because that initial trim turned him into a little boy. Not having him show up in our bed feels akin to that. A milestone. A frightening, saddening, bridge moving us further away from the oneness of pregnancy to the unknown of independent independence. In the morning he’s so sweet and soft. In the morning I haven’t lost my patience. I haven’t had to tell him for the tenth time to stop shoving his brother’s head into the floor, stop slowly pushing into Ike like a bulldozer waiting for his head to thonk on the floor, or to stop goddamn running away from me when I just need to put on his sock.
I like our mornings together because there is so little time that is just for Connor and I without me feeling pulled in several different directions. I love the mornings where I can slip my arm out from under his head and putter around the kitchen in complete silence. The minutes that I have to myself in the house are few. But I also adore those mornings when he pops out of bed the moment I sit up, enthusiastically hopping into my arms after I ask him if he wants to help make coffee. If we’ve both gotten decent sleep, those mornings usually carry on into good days. And even though I may not have time to play “Dinosaurs and the King” with him, his world doesn’t fall apart. We like each other on those mornings.
On more rare mornings after I fixed Ike’s bottles and the coffee is percolating, if everyone is still asleep but I hear Ike stirring, I’ll gently slide his door open and spend a few quiet, Lenny-filled moments with him. These moments truly feel like stolen ones. I lay on the floor and let him crawl on me like a puppy, drooling in my face like the same. Poor Ike, my forgotten child, the one left to raise himself while Z and I try to keep up with Connor. To this day, Connor sits in our laps while we read him story after story. Ike wants to be raised differently. He rather be sung to, danced with, thrown in the air and demon dropped to the ground. Any attempts to read him a bedtime story wind up with him face-planting into the window because he inevitably crawls out of our laps and tries to get behind the curtains. He isn’t Connor, and as much as I love that kid I’m thankful for Ike’s Ike-ness. He has no idea what a favor he’s done for all of us by trying to stop all comparisons with his brother from the get-go.
It sometimes feels like a love affair – spending time with Connor feels like cheating on Ike, spending time with Ike can feel like cheating on Connor. I feel that phase fading, though. We can spend time all together after work doing things that all of us can participate in, even if it is putting the boys in a laundry basket and pulling them around the house. Ike can be part of that. Connor can be part of that. The aching muscles in my back and arms are definitely a part of that. We can be exhausted and grumpy and tired and joyous all together, even if Z and I are more of some of those things after the boys go to bed. I’m not sure what I’m getting at. Maybe just that it’s all ok. The exhaustion and the frustration, the “I have no idea what I’m doing,” the “I’m a horrible parent,” the kids sleeping in our bed, the “let’s skip the shower tonight” days,they all end up ok. The kids will be fine. The kids are fine. We’re doing good.