I have come to truly savor the moments when it is just the two of us.
Cuddled on the couch with a book. Swaying back and forth in front of the crib right before I lay him down for the night. Crawling across the floor after one another, teasing and tickling and collapsing into fits of giggles. Splashing and playing in the tub, as soaked sitting out of it as he is sitting inside. Building Lego towers he immediately destroys, fitting puzzle pieces in their place so he can throw them across the room, clapping excitedly with every basket he makes. Watching as he mashes food in his head, on the wall, in the dog's fur. The way he hops and sways to the music—any music—in a dance all his own, the shaking and jumping overtaking his entire body in a wave.
And his kisses. Oh, his sweet slobbery open-mouthed kisses. There is nothing better in this entire world.
It took me a while to get used to being a mom, to feel comfortable with the rather heavy and all-consuming responsibility of caring for another human being. It took me a while to get past the point of overwhelmed, overtired, insecure. (OK, so maybe I'm not totally past it yet. But is a mother ever there?) Now I wish I could go back to when he was an infant, to savor those moments more. They went too fast, in a blur. I blinked and suddenly he wasn't a baby. He was a toddler. He was his own person, not a tiny swaddled figure in my arms.
But now, despite all the things I haven't yet figured out, I have figured out this: I must savor every moment. When he looks up at me with his big blue eyes, when he calls out for me or rushes over to me with his arms outstretched, when he sits contentedly in my arms, his read resting on my shoulder. These, too, soon shall pass. So I must not take a single second for granted.
Of course, it's not all sugar and light-filled memories. He has a wild streak, a bit of daredevilry that I simultaneously praise and curse. I imagine many trips to the hospital in our future. I can't even fathom how many times I've already said "no" or "that's not a good decision" or "be nice." He knows exactly what buttons to push, what limits to try. Already he's mastered the fake fit, the temper tantrum to end all tantrums.
But he also knows exactly when to smile sweetly and say "hi" so you forget what you were about to scold him for. How can you scold, when he goes to wrap his arms around you in the warmest, softest hug you've ever had?
He is curious, inquisitive. When he focuses on something he's completely lost in what he's doing. He can sit by himself with his books for long minutes, lost in his imaginary stories. He will play quietly, talking to his toy friends. But in the next breath he's up, running around, yelling at the top of his lungs. He's a social butterfly, a flirt, not afraid of anyone or anything.
I admire him for his fearlessness, his playfulness, his sweetness, his light. I want to freeze him in this moment, at this age, forever. But I know it's fleeting. So I try with all my might to savor the moments as they happen rather than fighting to keep them in my grasp as they slip away.
Because they are never as bright and true on film or in memory as they are when we are in their midst.