Big fat tears streamed down his sad face. I had scolded him a few minutes prior because he had just spent the last fifteen minutes whining, following me around, and repeating a request that I had already said, 'no' to, repeatedly. I asked him to please go upstairs, to sit down for a minute and take a break. When I came to talk to him and saw that face, I stretched my arms out wide.
"Buddy, what is wrong?" I asked.
A genuine voice answered me and he said, "I want to be best friends with you, Mom. I need to be near you."
This child, my first-borne. The one who turns four next month and will say good-bye to his toddlerhood...and right now, his biggest worry is that we aren't best friends.
"Baby, Mommy was really tired of you whining when I had asked you to stop. Daddy and I are working hard to clean the house and I gave you plenty of other options for fun. I will always be your best friend, but I also need you to listen," I responded. He hugged my neck tightly and I breathed in his familiar scent. The top of his head still smells like 'baby' to me--his soft skin still brings me back to his newborn days. He is so much of what 'home' is for me. But he's gone from an infant who relied on me solely for nourishment and growth, to a child whose heart longs for an actual friendship.
There are some days that the requests wear me out. Come bed time, this mama is more than ready to take a hot shower, change into pajamas, and decompress however I want to.
-One more drink, Mom.
-Let's read just one more book.
-I need another hug and kiss. No, I need ANOTHER hug and kiss!
-Come pick me up, Mom.
-Mommy put me down.
-Tickle my back, Mom. No, tickle my arm. Wait, tickle my nose. (What?!)
Guess what I not only know, but I inwardly wrestle with just thinking about? The inevitable truth that this toddler will grow into a young boy, who will transition to a teen, and then an adult. Chances are, he'll become a husband and later a father. Everyone promises, "You'll love every single stage!" I believe you. But he won't fit so perfectly in my arms anymore. And then what? (Scratch that, recently I tried to read to him in the rocking chair that I used to nurse him from, and his long and gangly legs drooped over the sides and his body stretched more than half-way down mine. We moved to his bed and I thought, 'When did you get this BIG?')
Pretty soon, he won't want me to put him to bed. He won't want me to read, because he'll be the one reading instead. The lullabies that I sing will eventually seem too childish, the sleepy-time glasses may at some point fade away. I won't be putting him into cute and cozy jammies. He will no longer demand to sleep with Lion. He won't beg me for another hug and kiss, he won't get his feelings so deeply hurt when I ask him to go to another floor of the house--he won't worry if his MOM is his best friend.
These days are fleeting and I'm still trying to convince myself that I will be okay as we move on to the next phases. His love for Little Einsteins and Curious George will be replaced with PG-13 movies and asking to go to the theatre with friends. His need to incessantly be by MY side will switch to a girlfriend's. It will be her hand that he'll want to hold and her phone ringing as soon as he comes in from school (where he will probably have just spent ALL day with her).
Each and every year has been encompassed with beautiful memories and stories. I prayed for my son before he was born and I promise to continue. I know that as time progresses, my heart somehow finds a way to love him more and more; so trust me, I believe you when you say that I will love it all. And on my hardest days, the ones that I want to hurry through his bedtime, enforce the 'one book' rule, and insist that his dad be the one to put him down--I will remember his voice:
"Mommy, we are best friends, remember?"
Yes, sweet son, I will forever be your very best friend.