She lies heavy in my arms. The full weight of her 22lbs limp and motionless as she drifts off against my chest. Heat radiates against me. A dewy stickiness coats her forehead. But I don’t dare move her. Not yet. Not after the morning we had. She needs this nap.
Reluctantly I relax into the back of the rocking chair, counting the seconds before it’s safe to transfer her to the crib. Each gentle glide soothes her cranky mood and eases my cranky spirit. All I wanted was to pick up some groceries, all she wanted was to get out of the cart, and what really happened was a miniature World War Three in the pasta aisle. And so with every fiber of patience I could muster, I picked her up with one arm, summoned the 5 year old with the other, and calmly left the store. No groceries. No dignity. Only defeat starting me in the face while I wrestled her into the car seat and drove home.
Her piercing screams of defiance pounded in my ears for the next four miles. Did my head hurt from the deafening cries or the utter failure of the morning? Nap time couldn’t come soon enough.
We managed through lunch, and I carried my little Ruby into her room. By now she’d moved on, the whole ordeal not even a distant memory in her mind. And so I placed her in my lap and opened her book of choice.
“Bunbun? Owl? Bainty?” she whined. Of course. I’d forgotten the all important trio of comfort. A matted little bunny tail poked out from the crib slat along with the wing of her stuffed owl. I gathered each item. Soft, gentle, the perfect size to tuck under an arm. Her pink cotton blanket draped over us as we began the book. And like magic her stiff joints eased up, she melted back and settled in. Perfect comfort.
And now, a few minutes later, she yawns. Sleepiness creeps up with ease. She’s happy. She’s safe. She’s cared for. Between her soft animals and her mama, she’s got everything she needs to truly rest.
And sitting there I wonder, where is my Bunny and when did I outgrow it? At what point did I discard the marvelous myths of childhood in favor of the stark, cold realities of life? When was the last time my parents tucked me in or rocked me to the edge of sleep? Growing up requires moving on. It requires leaving behind our old comforts to make room for the new maturity life calls us into. Because in the insanity of grocery shopping with a toddler, we need coping mechanisms. We need the ability to think outside of ourselves. A blankey may make us feel better, but it solves nothing.
We adults need to see the bigger picture. We need to see the truth. Which is that they are watching us, judging our hearts. In my race toward nap time, did I pause to admire her fierce independence? Did I notice the shame on his face when he dropped his bowl of Cheerios? Did I demonstrate the fruit of self-control in the most exasperating of situations?
Did I let them be small while showing them how to be big? Because it comes too fast. One day we wake up, and the once magical Bunbun and Owl are only lifeless relics. The immersive power of childhood a passing wind, sweeping us along with it.
I gently kiss her hair, lavender scent lingering from the shampoo of last night’s bath. She sighs and sinks in deeper. Owl in one arm, Bunbun in the other; fully asleep. Before long she will have no need for the fluffy little friends. Her ability to manage without them–without me–is growing. Time blowing the change. Looking down I see her cheeks, rosy from the warmth of her head pressed against my chest. But I don’t move her. Better to keep her there, close to my heart. For as long as I possibly can.