the dashboard melted but we still have the radio

"I love you more than anything, mommy."

It's 9:30 a.m. and we've already been up for hours. We're driving to meet up with one of Ethan's friends for a playdate. "I love you more than anything, too," I say. I look up and catch a glimpse of Ethan's face in the mirror. He looks pensive and is staring out the window. "Are we there yet? Are we at Butterfly World yet?" "Almost." "What about now?" "Almost there." "I love you more than anything, mommy." "I love you more than anything, too." "We need to go to Publix. We need more hummus."

These days everything about Ethan seems so much older than the day before. Every morning he wakes up and seems taller, bigger, older. More like a child and less like a toddler. He is my trusty companion, the little hand that is always cemented into mine.

This pregnancy has left me feeling unlike myself. I used to be able to pull off a morning activity, an afternoon playdate, a before dinner park outing. These days, I feel as if all of my energy dissipates by one in the afternoon. I am learning that it's okay to have limits, that it's okay to say no if I have to. It's okay if I'm unable to plan playdates around everyone else's daycare schedule or other plans or meals out because this is just the way things have to be right now. Of course, I feel guilty. We've been spending nearly every afternoon at my mother's house where I can fall asleep without being a completely negligent parent. If Ethan has noticed me slowing down, he hasn't acknowledged a thing. Lunch and dinners at Grandma and Grandpa's house seem just as fun to him and, of course, Grandma almost always has ice cream. I entered this pregnancy terrified of these small transitional periods and how Ethan would react to them, but he hasn't seemed to notice -- or at least mind. But still I feel guilty. "Don't lift anything over 10 pounds," the doctor tells me and my heart aches for the forty pound child at home who needs me to hold him and rock him and snuggle him. And so I do, letting his hair fall across my cheek as he breathes into my neck, and then I feel guilty for not following protocol for my other baby, the one who is simply wriggles in my tummy at this point in time. It's a guilt game I've waged against myself and myself alone, but it doesn't make it any easier. I feel tired. This is also my husband's busy time at work. He gets home in the morning hours and leaves again in the morning hours and our time with him is limited to a "goodbye" before he goes into work. This is the first time that Ethan has been old enough to notice this, the change in daddy's schedule, and he's been asking questions and expressing his disapproval. "No, daddy can't be at work. Daddy has to come home. Daddy has to read stories and sing me songs!" I try to explain it as best as I know how while hoping he doesn't take it personally. Sometimes I feel like he takes it personally. Guilt, even if I'm always with him.

These days are slightly slower days. We take breaks to chug milk to alleviate heartburn. We eat pasta more than we don't. Ethan usually falls asleep for the evening in the car on the way home from Grandma's house. I stay up later than I would like nagging at myself in my head for slowing down our pace, for changing up Ethan's routines. I look at him and realize it doesn't matter. His days are full, his heart is happy, and this is still our time together.

I love it more than anything.


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