I am upstairs in the bedroom with H. I am changing the sheets in between racing him to the foot of the stairs, where we practice going up and down. Spin around and feet first, I tell H. He looks at me and smiles with delight. I help him down one step, then two. He uses the stairs to pull up to his feet, testing his balance. He hoists one knee up to the next step and pauses for a split second before the other knee follows. Up the next step, wobbling between knees, he is on the landing now. He looks back at me and laughs before he crawls confidently away, back to the bedroom.
I hear T downstairs. He is speaking to himself in German, swearing. I pick up that he has knocked over the glass of water I left on the living room floor. I can feel the anger in his voice, and my stomach tightens. I cannot hold space for his reaction right now. It is almost 4pm, and H has napped for maybe 20 minutes all day. I am tired and frustrated. I go to the bedroom and close the door. I close my eyes and pause for one breath, then two. I finish changing the sheets.
H is showing hunger cues. We get in bed together to nurse. Maybe he will nap now, I think, but his body does not slow down. He is twisting away from me, kicking his leg out, scratching my chest. He unlatches and rolls away. I pull him back for the second side. He nurses and pinches and scratches at me. There is no sign of sleep.
I feel slightly crazy. There is tension in my body. My insides are bouncing around like they want to get out. I feel trapped. We will go to the park, I decide. H loves the bucket swing. I will treat myself to a vegan chocolate chip cookie. I put H in Babyhawk. I can barely tell T that we are leaving.
He’s not giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time, I remind myself about H. Yes. That helps. I wonder if I can apply the same to T. He’s not giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time. Yes. That helps at least a little. How about me? I’m having a hard time. I’m giving myself a hard time. I give myself a hard time when I’m having a hard time. Why? I do not know.
We are at the park. H is excited about the people on the tennis courts. He is excited about the people riding bikes, the buses, and a dog that walks by. I struggle to stay with myself. I will call my sister, I think. I can hardly see the screen of my phone in the glare of the sun. I think I found her number. I press call, but the phone does not ring. I try again. Still there is no ringing. Emergency calls only, I manage to see on the screen. This feels like an emergency, I think, but there is nothing to be done. 911 cannot help me with my insides bouncing around.
I push H on the swing. He points at the bikers, at the abandoned water bottle on the grass, at the trees, at I don’t know what. Maybe the sky? I sing the ABC song to him, first the Dr. Seuss ABCs, then with just letters. There is nothing to do but breathe. I relax my shoulders. I pull the bucket swing back, one, two, three times and let go. H kicks his legs. I push him higher and run behind him. H loves this. He looks behind himself as he swings back and laughs. He kicks his legs more vigorously. He laughs and laughs, and finally, I cannot help it. I laugh, too.
H asks to come out of the swing. He is showing tired cues. I put him in Babyhawk, and we walk up the hill.
We are home. It is bedtime. I put his nighttime diaper on, and we get into bed together to nurse. I hold him in cradle to nurse from the first side. This is the only time we nurse in this position anymore. I hold him just as I held him as a newborn. His eyelids are heavy. His eyes flutter closed, and his breathing slows. He is nearly asleep. I put him down, and we nurse from the second side. He is asleep within minutes, mercifully, after the long day.
We all had a hard time today, me, H, and T, and now it is good night. Tomorrow we will all have another opportunity to practice holding ourselves and each other gently. Thank goodness for new days.