The routine has been chiseled to perfection.
I carefully cover you with the blue blanket (not the green one, per your instructions), at mid-chest, because when it touches your shoulders it sets off an invisible alarm that jolts you out of a sound sleep. I collect the empty bottle of milk, which you requested to stall me, from under one of your feet. I collect the untouched bottle of water that you requested after I presented the milk. Balancing them in one hand, I bend down to rescue your beloved puppy from the floor and slide him into the bend in your arm. You sigh and stretch- I retreat to the corner like a ninja, waiting to see if I have to dive behind the crib or just wait out a momentary bout of restlessness.
Once you settle down I straighten from my Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon pose; check the temperature on the air conditioner (again); place a kiss onto my hand and then to your forehead (also checking for any fever that could have sprung up in the last 3-4 minutes); and whisper “I love you alllll the way to the moon and back.” Then I tip-toe out of the room praying that the squeaky door won’t wake you.
As I sprint down the stairs and quickly pack your lunch so I can catch the only tv show I (occassionally) have time to watch, I wonder…will you ever know? Will you ever momentarily open your heavy little eyelids, see me moving through my mom tasks with the precision of an acrobat on a high-wire, and somehow remember? Will you have some foggy recollection of a plush puppy being carefully slid into your arm? In 25 or 30 years when you’re reading “Guess How Much I Love You” to your own baby, and you get to the part where Big Nutbrown Hare tells Little Nutbrown Hare that he loves him alllll the way to the moon and back, will you suddenly have a warm, fuzzy feeling surge through you?
Now as one hand fills tomorrow’s cups with milk and the other spreads peanut butter onto a slice of bread, my mind really starts to wander. What about all the other things you’ll never know? Like the peanut butter, for example. You think you like a lot of it, but when it oozes out of the corners of the bread you declare “Mess! Mess!” and demand a napkin; so I carefully spread it as evenly as fondant on a wedding cake, eliminating any gobs that will send you into a fit (you get that over-zealous need for neatness from your father, by the way).
Then there are Amy’s Bunnies- they don’t sell the chocolate bunnies separately (because why would they?), but they do sell them mixed with vanilla bunnies. Well, you don’t like the vanilla bunnies (why would you?), so to avoid the angry shower of bunny mayhem raining upon me from the backseat of the car, I carefully remove all traces of bland vanilla bunnies from your snack bowl before giving it to you. Will you ever know this? Probably not. Are my thighs thanking me for discarding all the vanilla bunnies by consuming them myself? Also probably not.
What about all of my other mom wizardry, like finding the right ratio of lavender and tea tree-scented bubbles to bathwater, or convincing you that my kisses cure boo-boos? Or my expert method of proving that you’re tired, even when you are certain you have enough energy to dance until the sun comes up?
First I say we should have a dance party; you race up the stairs, turn on your musical drum kit, yell “Mommy dance!” and start jumping and wiggling around like that person at a wedding who’s had one-too-many right before the Chicken Dance comes on. I jump and wiggle with you for about ten minutes, then ask you to dance with me. You of course oblige, and I pick you up and start spinning and dipping as you giggle and squeal.
After a few spins I twirl over to the drum kit and turn it off, suggesting that we instead dance to the music on your mobile. In your dizzy dance stupor, you yell “Yay music!” not realizing you’ve now sealed your dreaded bedtime fate. Once the mobile is cranked up, I accidentally brush past the bedroom light, turning it off, and begin to slowly sway around the nursery with you. Before long, your strawberry blonde curls are resting on my shoulder, your arms are wrapped around my neck, and your breath is a light, even breeze on my back. I softly ask “Oh, are you sleepy?” The answer comes from somewhere in a dream that your mind has already started to weave.
“Night-night my beautiful boy.”
And just like that, in only 25 easy steps, I have convinced both of us that we’re exhausted.
But how will you ever know? Maybe you won’t. Although… whenever I’m sick I remember the warmth of butter and honey smeared across a piece of toast, placed carefully on my mother’s nightstand, waiting for me to wake from the nap I always took on her side of the bed (because only her side of the bed made me feel better). Whenever I hold an orange, I faintly hear my grandmother asking if I wanted “boats or smileys” when she cut them up for me. If I smell a certain perfume, I’m transported back to the very rare Friday night when Mom would get dressed up in her favorite high-necked red dress with the shoulder pads (it was the 80’s, don’t judge), Dad would put on his dark gray suit, and they’d go to dinner. But first, they’d tuck me in- and I’d fall asleep with her sweet perfume in my nose and the memory of her gold cross dangling near my eyes as she leaned down to kiss me goodnight.
So maybe all these feats I’ve spent so much time mastering are just things you’ll never know. But then again…maybe one day when you’re resting on your couch, fighting a nasty cold, you’ll remember chamomile tea, waffles with jelly in every square, foot massages and Mickey Mouse marathons, and it’ll cheer you up a bit. And maybe one day, far in the future, you’ll be absently walking around a small shop in a small town (because if we are raising you even remotely correctly you will love small shops in small towns) and the sweet scent of lavender and tea tree will somehow find its way to your nose…and you’ll smile.