but at my back i always hear

Last night at 2:30 AM my son woke up yelling his head off. My husband has night duties with the children – this tradition of sorts started when Sophie was 13 months old and we were night-weaning but has lasted to being a fixture of inequity in our marriage that he bears well for the most part. Of course, when things aren’t going well for him I can be counted on to get up and help settle the needy child. Last night was one of these nights. After what seemd like hours listening to Nels cry (it was probably only about three minutes, though) I dragged myself out of bed to see What’s The Problem. When I took Nels from my husband it seemed obvious to me the little guy was hungry. Hungry at 2:30 AM? OK, whatever – he was probably trying to grow three inches in his sleep or something. We moved into the living room and got him a snack and a big sippy cup full of milk. He sat on my lap, bright-eyed, flushed-cheeks, so happy to be near me, sucking his milk down. I smelled the back of his neck and held him close, greedy for a cuddly version of my son who normally struggles like a juvenile wolverine to get out of my arms and into trouble.

As I sat there with my thirsty boy on my lap, my husband dozing on the couch next to us, I felt so resentful about the time that is passing before my eyes. In this small window of early morning when I have the grace to be content and enjoy this moment with my child I know that in only a few minutes we will all be moving on to resume our sleep and waking up to the frenetic daily pace of our lives. Here my son is – one day past 16 months and he will never be this young, beautiful in exactly this way, again. I feel this odd double-vision too as I sometimes forget which child it is that is the baby, and where those months went. My children’s infancies are being devoured by time, faster than I ever would have thought possible. When you become a parent so many people will tell you “they grow up so fast” – but no one tells you how bitterly unfair it is, and how one never gets used to the pace even as it roars ahead of you in the wee hours of the night.

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