For the last few months, I’ve been thinking back to what our lives were like two years ago. You were 22 months old, the same age Peanut is now. I was pregnant with him, about 7 months along.
I was exhausted almost all the time. Just moving from a sitting position to standing required a lot of effort, much less chasing you around. I wished I had more energy, because I felt like I was neglecting you. Most of the time, I was too tired to take you outside to play, or even do much inside. I lost track of the number of times I set up a secure, safe play area, then hoped you would occupy yourself so I could nap on the floor. It didn’t often work; even then, you were very social and preferred interactive play. So I resorted to sitting you in front of a video much more frequently than I thought I should because I just wanted to rest.
I feel twinges of guilt sometimes when I pick up Peanut and carry him somewhere. He still likes to be carried a lot, or just held up at adult level, where he can be close to us and have a better view of what’s going on. You still asked a lot at that age, too, but I often made you walk. I was already carrying an extra 25 pounds or so of pregnancy weight; it was hard for me to add your 27 pounds, too, and wrapping you around my protruding belly was awkward. I also wanted you to learn to walk most of the time, knowing that once the baby was born, I wouldn’t be able to carry both of you simultaneously.
But the flashbacks are most frequent at bedtime, when I’m rocking one of you to sleep. By this time two years ago, my lap was pretty much nonexistent. And for months, I had only grudgingly allowed you in my disappearing lap for short periods. You’ve always been very tactile, wanting to play with my face or hair, investigate my moles, scratch or rub my fingernails, push your fingers into the grooves made by the insides of my elbows, etc. I get “touched out” much more easily than Daddy, and pregnancy made me even more sensitive.
Let’s not forget you usually took hours to fall asleep, and you were rarely still during the process. Your movements were often sudden and forceful. Because of the pregnancy, I was concerned about elbows and kicks to my abdomen, and my breasts were quite tender and sore. I frequently used a pillow as a buffer.
But of course, what you really wanted from me was to be held close, cuddled. Recently, I was surprised when you said, “I need your skin,” but I guess I shouldn’t have been. I’ve known that since long before you had the ability to say it. Of course I still hugged, kissed, and caressed you while I was pregnant, but it wasn’t the same, and we both knew it.
I wish I had been able to give you more two years ago. Happily, I don’t think there are any permanent negative effects, and there may have been some positive. You learned early in life that the world does not revolve around you. And although it made me sad at the time, and I still have some regrets, Daddy and I did a great job parenting you anyway. You were fed, clothed, provided health care, talked to, read to, sung to, given opportunities for social activities, and the list goes on… But above all, you were (and are) loved beyond measure.
I shouldn’t beat myself up about the things I didn’t do for you two years ago. Those weren’t failures; they were what the reality of life demanded at the time. We grew as a family and as individuals; it’s unreasonable to expect to do that without a few growing pains.
Now my lap is back, though you’ve grown so much you barely fit. You still love to be hugged and cuddled, as long as it’s on your terms, and I am happy to oblige as often as you are willing. Just the other night, we both fell asleep in the rocking chair, with you curled up in my lap. Though I still have a tendency to feel “touched out” at times, I am able to be more patient with you and find ways to fulfill your need while retaining my sanity. I still feel tired most of the time, due to lack of sleep, but I have more energy to play with you now. And when you ask me to pick you up, I do.