Miles is magical.
We heard his feet thump onto the floor of his room, onto the ceiling above our heads in the dining room. On mornings like this, when he doesn’t find us still in bed, he stops at the top of the steps and makes a noise. A soft whimper indicates a good mood. He wants one of us to come to him and carry him down the steps.
I was ready. I had managed to wake up before him in my latest effort to get up earlier and go to bed earlier (10pm and 6am are my ideal). Ever since the time changed, a heavier kind of gravity smothers me deliciously almost every morning. But the light is there now, earlier. It’s time to get back on a more regular jogging schedule. It’s also my dream that by summer, we will arise early, eat on the small screened-in porch off our kitchen, and then tumble out of the back door to marvel at and work in the garden. Dew, slugs, and all.
He smiled, dazed with sleep still saturating his brain, and lay down on the couch with me, his head on my shoulder and my arm encircling him. Where I love him best. I groggily read to him, and we inched slowly into wakefulness.
Something has changed again, as it always has, ever since he first came to us. I never know what’s next.
Sometimes it’s difficult to feel connected—like during the three-month long saga of molar teething and irritability when I wondered why we were still waking up twice a night three years later.
Sometimes, like now, it’s astonishing to be with him. Something shifts, and he’s becoming bigger, content, or mastering something new and feeling good about it. Or maybe the thing that shifts is my mood. All the confusion about parenting (what’s the right way to do this?), all the pieces of what we’ve worked for suddenly fall together in a shape that makes sense to me.
He held graham cracker pieces in his hands (without crying about them breaking!) and said, “This one looks like Nevada.” Indeed, one of the pieces that had fallen on the floor almost perfectly matched the outline of Nevada. This moment was born of a remarkable synergy: months ago, we began using a map place mat from his grandparents to talk about places we’ve traveled; his curiosity branched to other states from there; and at school they’ve been looking at the U.S. map and singing a song about the 50 states.
Despite promised storms, we’ve been sitting on the porch again for lunch. It was our ritual last summer. This takes the drudgery out of lunch (he will only eat pasta with butter, salt, and pepper for lunch at home—no sauce, not even paltry sprinkles of cheese). The change of scenery, even a simple one like this, provides me a clearing to be more present in what our life has become. Yesterday I sat there remembering how different my life could be without Miles. Or how different it would be if I weren’t fortunate enough to stay home with him. Would I notice even a small fraction of the things I observe about him and his personality and development if I worked outside of our home?
I adore the sight of him, ever in motion, in the Adirondack chair next to me. Refusing the fork in favor of doublefisting clumps of pasta, butter grease hand prints appear like phantoms all over the white paint. He says, “Let’s talk together, Papa,” and his face beams, with big brown, well-lashed eyes, and deep dimples.
Then he sees a bee and tension fills his body. He is on top of me in less than a second, pushing into my limbs and my chest, infected with panic. “I don’t like bees. Yuck! Yuck!”
I explain to him all over again that bees won’t hurt you if you don’t bother them. They are just looking for flowers, just like in the honeybee book we’ve been reading.
He is still climbing all over me, like he’s trying to crawl inside my skin for protection. His sharp elbows and knees kind of hurt, but I am lost in the extremely centered sensation filling me that I am his protector and comforter. He’s old enough now that I can mostly make sense of his cries, screams, and fears.
“Would you rather go inside for lunch?”
The bee flies away. He recites the information about bees not hurting you unless you hurt them.
I can’t help but feel like I am betraying him by making it sound simpler than it is. I got stung a lot when I was little—by bees, wasps, hornets, I’m not sure—and I don’t remember for sure if I was bothering them or not. But when I tell him I’ll protect him from the bees, I picture myself picking him up and not so gracefully dashing away from the bee, hands covering his skin or taking the sting myself.