every minute of this

On some nights when it's quiet and I'm about to drift of to sleep, I begin to think about the way I parented before loss as opposed to the way I parent now. Curiosity calls me to try to weigh the differences, try to detect any changes in the way I do or think or feel things when it comes to being a parent now versus then. I haven't been able to pinpoint many differences but there has been the slightest bit of change that sprouted up in the moments following us saying goodbye to our daughter: I know I'm right. It isn't about arrogance so much as it is clarity, so much as it is about confidence and tuning out the static and letting love take the lead.

I've always nurtured Ethan to the point where others felt it their place to scoff. "You coddle him," they said. "He'll never sleep on his own," they said. "Are you going to rock him when he's in college?" I'd disregard their words and yet still hear them, maybe the tiniest bit, ringing in my ears as I held my baby in my arms. As his long legs fell over the sides of the rocker, as his soft breaths served as the bass line to the Jewel songs I would sing him, I would think, "I love every minute of this. Maybe I am making a mistake, but I love every minute of this." When he turned two and a half and asked us to stop rocking him, to instead lay by his bed and rub his back as we sang him to sleep, people would ask me if I sleep trained him yet. They would ask me when enough was enough, when I would let him learn to soothe himself to sleep. "You're making a huge mistake," they would say. As I kissed his messy, wavy hair and let my fingers gently scratch his back as he slept, I thought the same: "I love every minute of this. Maybe I am making a mistake, but I love every minute of this." It was the same for homeschooling, for redshirting or for keeping him home with me in general well past the age most children stay at home with their mothers. "Don't you think he needs time away from you?" "Don't you think some separation would be nice?" "Don't you think he needs school?" Sometimes the floor would be laden with Legos and I would hear the stress pounding in my temples and there would be an overturned cup of water on the dining room table and there would be a three year old little boy asking me to reassure him that accidents happen, mommy. I didn't spill the water on purpose. And I would take him in my arms and feel his quick, tearful breaths against my clavicle and I would think "I love every minute of this. Maybe I am making a mistake, but I love every minute of this." There would be the trips to Target with the bartering (yes, you can bring the Lego boy with you but no, you cannot take an entire box of crackers in the car) and the mid-aisle tantrums and the "go away, mommy" that would turn into a "I have the best time when I spend time with you, mommy" just seven minutes later. And I would let those words speak to my soul and sop up the tears in the corners of my eyes that I was intently trying to ignore. I would take my three year old boy in my arms and kiss his forehead and I would think "I love every minute of this. Maybe I am making a mistake, but I love every minute of this."

But then I held my daughter's body in my arms and her skin was fair and cold. Her eyes were closed and I would never see them open, I would never see them glimmer with joy or tremble with sadness. I took in all the nevers in the moments that we held her: I would never hear her laugh, never hear her cry, never rock her to sleep, never sing her Jewel songs, never trade her some patience for a cake pop, never feel her soft breath into my clavicle, never know the her that would never develop -- the favorite songs, the sense of style, the favorite hobbies. I would get one day to take her wound up, coarse curls -- just like her daddy's -- in my hand and hold her close to me, breathing in her scent and memorizing the way her skin felt against my fingers. And as we walked into our home without her, I realized that I wasn't making a mistake.

Tonight my nearly four year old asked me to hold his hand as he walked down our dark hallway to use the restroom. He asked me to sing to him, to scratch his back as he fell asleep. He asked me to tell him about tomorrow and all of the adventures we could have when he felt better as he drifted off to sleep, slowly and softly singing along to the Jewel songs he'd come to know by heart by now. Got my eggs, got my pancakes, too. Got my maple syrup, everything but you.

And I thought I love every minute of this. My god, I love every minute of this.

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