Teddy isn’t Charlie. Not by a long shot.
Firstly, he’s second. Secondly, he’s last. Which is to say, he’s the baby. Charlie is a training model. We love him fiercely, but there’s no denying that his very station means he’s the one we make all the mistakes with. He is then tasked with training us on how it all should look. He teaches us that all these transitions, the ones he’s made at least, are not to be so fretted over. We stress with him because he is at the tip of the spear for us. His firsts are our firsts. While we are going through them we can see all the ways we’ve made it hard on ourselves and even hard on Charlie. Fortunately we also see how resilient Charlie is and we learn that our screw ups didn’t actually screw him up. Just screwed us up, really.
Teddy’s the baby. It’s different. We can feel wistfulness because we now know how fast it all goes. With the first you learn how long a day is, with the last you learn how short the years are. How much it’s all slipping away. How much we aren’t ready even if he is. I would never say we sabotage, but more often with Teddy our screw ups are acts of commission. We don’t ever sabotage, but we deliberately do some real real stupid s#it.
So now, for the past month, and for as long as I can see into the future, we’re going to pay the penance for our misdeeds. My penance takes place on the floor of the boys bedroom between roughly 8 o’clock each night and 11. We’ve broken our boy.
It started innocently enough. I’d hold him in the glider each night, he’d slowly drift off in my arms. It was really quite beautiful. Last words always the same.
‘Open your butt.’
I know. Seemed needlessly assaultive to me as well. Turned out it wasn’t what he meant. I don’t really know how he came to this phrasing. I mean he seems to know what a butt is. But he was really just asking me to arch my back for a second so he could slide his inside arm around me as he snuggled in.
But now it’s been weeks since I’ve heard those three, magic, disturbing words that always meant rest was just around the corner for everyone. Not anymore. The little monster, and this does coincide with him discovering his voice (which in many cases could be classified as a hate crime if toddlers were prosecutable and adults were an oppressed class) just lays there, eyes wide staring at the ceiling. For hours. I frankly don’t know how he does it. I mean, he’s exhausted. At least he should be
This is not going to happen tear free. Nope. I’ve begun to redraw lines and enforce borders to try to break him. Which in this case means I draw the line at holding him in the stupid hope that he’ll relearn to fall asleep in my arms for no more than an hour. Hour and a half tops. But that’s it! Then, off to bed for you mister!
Will I lie next to you and hold your hand? Of course, buddy. I’m not a monster. What? That keeps you awake too. Sheesh. Well, let me just get a pillow and puffy blanky and make it comfy. We both know I”m gonna be down here for a while. But last night it was 10:12! 10:12 and he was asleep. I could leave! Until I stood up to do so. Then he whimpered. Then he whined. Before I knew it he was standing, crying and through tears and heavy breath he said, ‘hug me up, daddy!’
So of course I hugged him up. I mean seriously, he was sitting there, all cheeks, tears, crankiness and lovely. What was I to do? Say no? That’s some first kid nonsense. Charlie could confirm this if he weren’t feet away sleeping through the whole thing. Besides upon ‘hugging him up’ he fell asleep almost instantly. And we get to add, ‘Hug me up’, to the book of standard toddler phrases! But still, 3 hours nightly is a lot.
If you’d given me infinite monkeys on infinite keyboards they would never have banged out the phrase. One I never could have conceived of. One once conceived I would never have thought I’d so long to hear. But for all that is right and decent, Teddy, will you please go back to falling gently to sleep in my arms and uttering with eyes half shut.. ‘Daddy. Open your butt.’