So he enters the bedroom and you both wake up the second his little feet cross the threshold because your toddler-radars are, for once, in total synch and you both start with the utterings: What is it, baby, come here, baby, get in bed with us, baby. And you fit him between you where he lasts for 2 seconds because, as you both well know but are still in denial about, he is not the cuddle-in-the-parent’s-bed type of child, never has been, busting out of his bunting those first months, thrashing his way out of the snuggle-nest you both flanked each night so hopefully, the nest enabling you to keep him so close, so that you could oooh and aaah over him constantly, at any minute, any hour, any second of the night, between feedings. Nope. He wasn’t having any of that then and now he leads the way to his room and you settle him on the big-boy bed—only to feel an odd wetness on the sheets and then his back is arching and he’s getting rid of the rest of his dinner.
So you rush him to the bathroom and he shocks you by lifting up the toilet seat as though he knows, at 2 1/2 years old, exactly what to do, even though he’s never barfed into the toilet before, but he does, does it with perfect aim as you murmur encouragements and by then your husband is in the bathroom, too, catching up on events, and you both wet washcloths and wipe your child down and you both pat your child dry and one takes care of fresh toddler-pajamas while the other quickly changes the toddler-bedsheet, silently cursing buying only 1 fitted toddler-bed-sheet instead of a year’s supply for ER’s just like this one, but suddenly you find the toddler-flat-sheet works just fine and your husband settles on the bed next to the little guy and you flip off the light and stagger back to your bed and 45 minutes later the entire process is repeated, only this time you take the ailing babe into the living room once he’s cleaned up, cuddle him on the couch while your husband replaces the toddler-flat-sheet with a Queen fitted sheet he found in the hall linen closet by emptying the closet’s entire contents onto the floor and when your husband enters the living room in fresh boxers and tee shirt, arms outstretched, eyes half closed, ready for sleep, to try it again, you stand to transfer to him your mutual, precious center-of-all-universes, only to find you’ve been sitting in cat gak and didn’t even know it.
So you hand over the barfing babe and rush to do some kind of swift body rinse and when you are dry and changed into a fresh nightgown, you find the toddler back on the couch, wearing yet another pair of toddler-pajamas, sitting by himself with an expression you can only define as “patient”. He sits on the towel covering the cat gak, your husband swiftly changing the big-boy bed for the 3rd time this long, strange night-into-morning and you throw your arms around your child and rock and cuddle him as your husband rushes by, heading for the laundry room again with barfed-on sheets in his arms, and just then your child leaps up and demands his toy jets, which he finds in the next second and you watch, in awe and dismay, as he dashes around the living room, waving his jets in jet-flying-simulation, making those funny jet sounds that include spit and dribble, and when he sees his weary father shuffling out from the laundry room, he demands he stop and play jets and your husband waves you off, back to bed, but before you go you think to put a movie in, “Stuart Little”, delighting the toddler, who consents to sit (with both jets) next to his Dadda on the gak-stained couch, both of your loved ones wrapped in velvety throws, or whatever they’re called these days, those blankety things that only live on couches…
So you leave them, father and son movie fanatics (like father like son) and stumble to bed, Geena Davis’ faint protests in your ears as your head hits the pillows and you think—because you know, really know this time, now that you’re out of the constant State-Of-ER worry that goes with the first few months of parenthood, or rather the first year, and you’ve been through the first fever, colds, the flu and you’re not totally freaked and ready to call the paramedics at the first sign of a cough or vomit—your head hits the pillows and you think (with relief and love and a deep, profoundly beautiful agony and that constantly returning sense of awe)—THIS is being a parent, this, this, this.