When Puppy was an infant, I spent long stretches of time staring at him while he slept in my arms, especially during the quiet hours of the night. Taking in his delicious face, the whisper of his breathing, his tiny fingers. Wrapping my mind around the simple fact of his presence. I remember the hard wood of the rocking chair and the soft chill of night feedings, the mockingbirds who sang in the dark outside.
Three years later that baby is a rambunctious toddler. Now sleep is one of the only times that he stops moving and talking. Each night before going to bed I steal into his room to pull up covers and gently free picture books out from under him. Kiss him good night, murmur love into his ear. Take a long moment just to watch him sleep.
This late night habit has taken on a hint of ritual for me. Alone in the quiet night with the day's responsibilities finally laid to rest, my thoughts and emotions rise to the surface pure and unfiltered. I open myself to the moment, never knowing where it may lead. Sometimes I'm awash in awe and gratitude. Sometimes I smile, remembering a funny moment from the day. Sometimes I am simply content. Sometimes fears or worries poke through.
More often than not lately what bubbles to the surface is regret. During Puppy's first couple of years, I thought I had discovered a bottomless well of patience. I was that parent who didn't lose her temper or snap at her child. This year ended that illusion. Firefly changed everything. We met her first mom a few weeks after Puppy's birthday last year and from that day on some piece of my mind has been taken with preparing or caring for the new baby. Meanwhile Puppy grew older and more vocal about his opinions and desires. Every day it seems my irritation spills out over some worthless thing.
I stand at the side of his bed and wish the day had gone differently. He seems so small and vulnerable curled underneath the blankets. I remember sharp words, frustrated sighs, times I turned away, desperate to be alone for one minute, just one minute without these tiny people who always want me so completely. I regret letting another day of his fleeting childhood go by scathed by my shortcomings.
All these months in, I still feel like I'm working out how to mother two children. The routines are in place, the logistics long ago figured out. But finding the emotional strength to be present with them from their waking up until their going down--that is where I fall short.
I know that parents aren't meant to be perfect. I know that children learn more from humility than they would from a parent who never failed. Yet of all the things I've ever done in my life, raising them is most worthy of my best effort. So as each new day comes I try again and again and again.