Soon after Aaron was born in March, my wife was getting up several times a night for feedings. As she’d often go to bed early, I fell into the routine of staying up until around 11 and giving him a bottle before I went to bed. (This is kid #3 – I stopped staying up late a long time ago. OK, I never stayed up very late, but even less so now.)
Now I say that I ‘fell’ into this routine in that it wasn’t a choice that I consciously made or ever thought I’d be doing indefinitely. Upon reading this my wife just commented that “You do realize this will end at some point, don’t you?” Fair point, but it still feels eerily similar to a situation from when she was blessed with child the first time. As pregnant women aren’t supposed to clean a cat litter box, I was recruited to step in and take over that rewarding job. Six years later, guess who’s cleaning the litter box? (Yes, I realize that feeding the baby is infinitely more important than scooping cat poop, but you see what I’m saying.)
Anyway, starting a few weeks after he was born, 11:00 would come, the Yankees had usually made it to the post game and I would pull myself off the couch, tiptoe upstairs, get the bottle ready and feed the little guy. Aaron’s now just over 5 months old, and as you probably guessed, I’m still feeding him, albeit usually closer to 10:00 these days. Now truth be told, I do like our nightly encounter, but I am usually so tired, and I often can’t help making a production out of it to my wife. She gets annoyed with me for always complaining, but I’m pretty sure that I’ve done it consistantly and long enough that it’s become endearing.
I love my son. Peering into the dark nursery, slowly navigating through the room to Aaron’s crib, I stand above him, my eyes not adjusted to the dark, trying to make out his small form on the mattress. Gradually he comes into focus and I lift him up to my arms, his little body slightly jerking at the unexpected ascent. His tiny bald head rests on the pillow in my lap as I feed him a bottle, and I struggle to reject thoughts of work and tasks left incomplete, trying to stay focused and pray for this baby in my chair. So perfectly complete, yet utterly dependent on my every move. God, what a gift you’ve blessed us with, yet again.
This baby has no idea of all my failures and shortcomings. I remember what we kept telling ourselves as new parents the first time – how the baby doesn’t know if you’re doing it right or not – you’re his only point of reference. We’re the only parents he’s known. It has been four years since a new baby has lived in our house and I think it surprised both of us how much gets forgotten. They’re so much smaller. It makes Matthew and Josh seem like teenagers. In no time this baby will be jumping on me off beds and bruising my knuckles with lightsaber battles like his big brothers.
After his bottle and diaper change, Aaron likes to open his eyes just for a few moments to look up at me and smile. A brief exchange to tell me he loves seeing Daddy every night. Just like that he’s asleep again, slumped in my arms, head resting hard on my shoulder. I’m tempted to just stand there, wrapping him up with a firm squeeze. It’s the only time he’s still enough that I can hug him completely and soak him into me, absorbing his spirit in the shadows that dance against the silhouetted elephant and whale on the wall over his crib. I’m not sure what could be more perfect. It’s because of that moment, I suppose, that I don’t really mind having fallen into this routine. Sure I’ll still sometimes complain, but I have a feeling it won’t carry much weight anymore since my wife’s read this. Goodnight my son. Daddy loves you.
Copyright 2009 Steven K. Smith & MyBoys3.com
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