There we are in the dark and cold bedroom; it’s time for us to retreat to our private thoughts and personal space that will be very frequently invaded by random requests, burning questions that absolutely require answers right there and then, the occasional need to pee again, and for sure, final whining and baby talk for the day.
Of course, this isn’t new to both Aug and I. It’s a ritual we know all too well by now. The barrage begins almost straightaway after our nightly routine. At almost five (three months short) and almost three (one month away!), that routine is now: the reading of two books (at the moment, it’s Space Facts for Matthew and random fairy or pet books for Emma), our nightly prayers that conclude with us blessing one another with the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads and three “I love you”s said to three strokes of the nose. Then it’s “Goodnight”s all round before the lights are turned off.
Then we wait for the kiddos to fall asleep. Occasionally, Aug is in the bedroom with me. It actually helps to have another adult presence in the bedroom even without any interaction happening between us at all.
Now is also when I’m a mix of all kinds of wandering thoughts including straying fears and some very deep emotions manifested as repeated cuddles, many kisses (though I keep saying it’s the last one for the night over and over again) and “I love you”s until I’m sick of it.
As for the wandering thoughts and straying fears? Well, those come upon me mostly as recognition that nights like these (heck, days like that now) won’t last forever what with the kids shuttling through each phase of growth.
Tonight, I think about Emma and how in the blink of an eye, she is almost three.
Do I know her well? Do I know her heart?
I say a lot to Aug about how Emma is so different from when she was a baby. While Matthew had just developed further along the character traits he already had as a baby, Emma seems to be a completely different person from when she was littler.
My dear Emma, you who used to be such a gentle little mite, quiet and patient, a sweet and demure creature who stole our hearts just by being there, with no personal want, and are just a baby through and through, and the one who got me laughing and asking your dad “How come she’s so 姑娘? I wasn’t!” … are now this fierce and feisty toddler who doesn’t hold back from making known what you desire. You’re strong-headed, insistent, persistent, curious while still so innocent and unknowing, and both demanding and forgiving, quite the “terrible-three” toddler and little baby of the family all at the same time.
Most days are filled with your constant tantrums and a lot of whining.
Most nights are filled with you scolding us for touching this thing or nudging you a certain way. It makes me want to tear my hair out each time I’m there beside you, but oh-so-funny when I think about it every time I’m not in the room with you. Oh you little chilli-padi-pumpkin.
And then I wonder, where did that cherubic angel disappear to? Are you merely going through a phase or were you this way all along… and I never noticed? Are you this flaming angel now because of something I did or didn’t do? Do you accept my love when you’re angry? Am I loving you the right way?
“Kiss her again,” I say to daddy who is seated nearer to you.
Then I bend over your bed to kiss you again, and again, and again.
“You know mummy loves you right?” I ask your happy face as you attempt to shove Squirt in my face.
And then I wonder, how is it you’re three? How did that time zip by? With Matthew, I was well aware of every single passing day. Even though, yes the years still flew by, I was present for everyday and I showed up with what little reserve energy I had. With you though, Emma, the days are just mostly a blur and I was merely managing. Did I take time to delight in you and enjoy you as much?
I know it’s because I don’t have memories of there just being you, except for the times we had together without your brother. With him though, there was an entire phase of life where it was just him as the one and only baby in the family. This knowledge doesn’t ease the feeling of regret within though – small as it may be, truly – but ever-present.
So I do the next best thing, which is to be more aware of you, and to grasp you more fully – and believe me, it’s difficult when you’re testing my patience, our boundaries and the general sanity every three minutes – but I love you in the way that you were obviously made for me and us alone and I want to love you in the way that it makes my heart glad and it makes my heart soar despite the weight of that tinge of regret and the lightness of all my wishes and hopes for u combined.
And then in the darkness of the bedroom and the convergence of doubts and convictions, regrets and confidence, I do the other next best thing. I say to myself and to your daddy what I always, always say over and over again in my head (like a self-serving echo I implanted in myself a long time ago but am never fully conscious of): Kiss her again.
And I do.