My son fell asleep in my arms a few nights ago. He didn’t even make it to stories and songs. As part of our pre-bedtime routine, he curled up in my lap in the rocking chair and within about 3 minutes, his eyes were shut tightly and his arms fell slack and loose.

Little c. Gentleman, scholar and generally agreeable little fellow. Except for sometimes.

13 hours previously…

It’s 6 o’clock. AM. My son is shouting for me. “Mummy. Muuuummy.  MUMMY. MUUUUUUMMY!” And so it goes. If I’m not there with any degree of promptness (and let’s face, most mornings I’m not) his cry changes. “Daddy. Daddy! Daaaaaaddy. DADDY. DAAAAAAADDY!” My husband rises and brings him back to our bed for a snuggle. “I some cheerios” comes out haltingly, but faster that we want it to. Meltdown begins when we don’t move immediately.

We make it through a fine breakfast of eggs, sausages, toast and coffee (for the big people, not the little people). The demands start as soon as my husband is out the door. “Mummy, I some ‘nack? ‘Nack? Please? PLEASE!?!? It had only been 15 minutes since he’d finished breakfast. A banana pacifies him for a little while and he’s off to play with his sister.

We have swimming lessons this morning. Not because I’m thinking he’s the next Michael Phelps or anything, but simply because I want him to be comfortable in the water. His big sister goes at the same time so he’s fairly amenable to getting in the car and actually heading to the pool. Once he actually at the pool and in his swimsuit, things change a bit, though. I don’t think he’s actually afraid of the water. I do think he’s trying to see how much autonomy he has.

“Do you want to go in the water on the stairs”

“No.”

“How about jumping in? You loved that yesterday.”

“No.”

“Ok. Let’s walk down the ramp.”

“Noooooooooo.”

My wistful, slightly gingery-haired little boy is not impressed by the gurgling babies and toddler, nor their cooing parents. He (thinks he) is more articulate than all of them.

“I no want to. I no want it. I go home.”

I give up on trying to get his consent and pick him. We wade into the pool. He’s fine and then he counters,

“I go potty, Mama. I need a potty.”

Of course. We’ve been playing this potty thing for a few weeks now, but the one time he asks to go in public is while we’re in a waist-deep public pool. I take him to the potty. By the time, we get back (and he wasn’t lying, by the way), the toddler class has moved to the warming pool.

“But I go other pool. I phwide.”

This was pretty indicative to not only the rest of swimming but the day as well.  We were never in the right pool, never doing the right thing, never playing with the right toy, never eating the right thing. He didn’t eat much lunch. He didn’t nap. He didn’t want to read. He ate a tube of lipstick and smeared the remaining contents all over the bathroom cabinets, which I’d just painted. He didn’t eat a bite of supper. He managed to terrorize Ella the Wonderdog to the degree that she barricaded herself in her crate – pretty much unheard of behaviour for the most kid-tolerant dog on the planet.

So as I’m sitting in the rocking chair at 6:30 with this warm, floppy body curled close to my chest, my husband and I start to talk about how hard the day had been for me and how I was so worn out and how tired I was and what a fight it had been for me to get him to do anything and me me me me me me me ME. Then I stopped. I am not the only person in this relationship. And it really wasn’t me having a hard day, even though yes, I was frustrated sometimes. It was him. He’d had a bad day. He hadn’t had enough sleep. He’d been more interested than watching, rather than doing at swim class. He’d been curious and put in time out for the privilege. And as I rocked him a little more, I felt it – a bit of a fever, maybe teeth? Maybe just tired? Who knows? My husband encouraged me to put him to bed, take a rest.  And he was right. But I couldn’t . After a day like we’d had – not an earth-shatteringly bad day, but not full of rainbows and unicorns either – I needed to hold him. To be quiet with him. To let him know that he was loved, that he was safe and that he wasn’t alone in this. For him? For me? I don’t know. And I don’t care.

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