My wife loves when our son sleeps in our bed.
It’s tight, he inevitably chooses some weird, awkward position that usually involves one of his feet in her face or my crotch, but she loves it. Even when his presence makes any actual sleep totally impossible and leaves her completely exhausted the next day.
If I’m being honest, I love it too. Because I know it’s not going to last.
Soccer was tough going for Detective Munch. We signed him up, made sure to put him on the team with his best friend, and watched as he played the first half of the first game and then promptly decided he would never play again. We completely stopped going after four games, three of which he flat-out refused to get off the sidelines. It’s not the game – he likes playing soccer, or at least doing all the things one does when one plays soccer – it’s the chaos of the game. He doesn’t like the scrum.
That night in the backyard, just me and him, he demonstrated every skill he refused to put on display on the actual field, and while I was frustrated at his refusal to deploy them while playing in the games we actually paid to participate in, we had a lot of fun.
When we were done, I picked him up a few times to let him know how proud I was, and he hugged me. It wasn’t until later when he was in bed and I was alone that I realized how happy he’d been at that moment, when he was in my arms and we were celebrating. And how happy I’d been. And not just because he showed a little bit of skill at sports.
There’s something special about being able to pick up and lift your kid. Detective Munch is getting bigger, but I can still do it with ease. I can’t carry him around with ease, and that night in Cape Cod when I walked up the World’s Steepest Sand Dune with him in my arms nearly killed me, but I can still lift him up with ease. So much so that I occasionally take it for granted.
It’s not gonna be forever that he’s light enough to be lifted, or interested enough to want me to lift him. Or that I’ll be young enough to be able to. And the days when he climbs into our bed in the middle of the night and snuggles up against us aren’t going to last much longer either.
No, I don’t sleep much when my kid shares our bed, but that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna miss it when he stops climbing in.
As a parent, it’s ridiculously easy, even after recognizing it and writing about it and acknowledging how much you appreciate the hugs and the lifting and the snuggling, to shift back into day-to-day survival mode. Life resumes and suddenly you’re annoyed when the kid won’t sleep in his own bed and you’re irritated at having to carry him up the stairs or help him get dressed or lift him out of his car seat.
It’s ridiculously easy to forget how special those moments are, how fleeting they are, and how rare they’ll be in just a few years.
I’m tempted to say – cynic that I am – that not every ordinary moment is special merely because it’s short-lived, but I feel like that would be a lie, at least when it comes to parenting. There’s a lot of bullshit involved in this job, a lot of frustration, and every stage of development brings new, bigger ones. And it’s scary to ponder a future in which I’m longing for the days when my son needed help brushing his teeth. But something tells me I will. Something tells me when I look back at my life, despite all the frustration and inconvenience they’ve caused, my kids are going to be my greatest accomplishment. Something tells me even heads of state end up feeling this way.
Don’t worry; I’m not going to preach about savoring every moment. You can’t spend every minute of your day basking in the moment merely because it’s fleeting, not when you have adult responsibilities and a busy schedule and a demanding job. I won’t pretend I’ll be able to do that, and I think feeling guilty about what is essentially just part of being a human being is counterproductive. Life is life, it’s not always a bowl of cherries; there’s no getting around it. And kids are kids, they’re not always lovable; there’s no getting around that, either. But during those rare moments when you do recognize it, you should probably indulge it.
That’s why I’m adopting a “don’t hate, appreciate” philosophy. That’s why my son will be in my bed again tonight, despite my lack of sleep, and why I’m going to pick him up and give him a big ole raspberry right on his belly when I get home today, despite the fact that he’ll probably throw a fit when I walk in the door. (I’m not suggesting you curtail the co-sleeping if you have real concerns about development, or that you spoil the kid rotten; I’m talking about the smaller, innocuous stuff that might not seem like a big deal but is probably something you’re going to miss down the line.)
Those are the moments that make all the stress worth it. If you can’t step back every once in a while to appreciate them, there’s really no reason to be doing this at all.
Someone please remind me of this in three months when I’m feeding a baby at 4am and wondering why I’m doing this at all.