You Can Always Be My Baby

Dear Edie,

Last night your daddy had to work late and you were having a rough go. I think we might be getting ready for a new tooth or two--you chewed aggressively on the bottom of your shirt all afternoon, baring your tiny belly button as you pulled the hem up to your mouth. It was a long day. We both smelled like old chicken from the wings we'd eaten earlier. I needed a quick shower and then planned to wipe you down and get you to bed early.

I carried you up to the bathroom and tried to set you on the floor with some books and toys--our normal routine when daddy works late. You usually appreciate the change of scenery after playing downstairs all day no matter what kind of mood you're in, but not last night. You clung to me with your tiny thighs and screamed out as if the floor was made of fire. I took off my shirt, scooped you back up and turned on the shower. I hoped nursing against the soundtrack of the running water would be enough for you to reach for your Curious George puppet so I could speed scrub my greasy hair. It worked--just long enough for me to peel off my sticky yoga pants and step under the hot water. 

You yanked the shower curtain open and out of the tub to reveal your purple face and open lips. You were doing that thing you did as a newborn when you were REALLY in distress--crying so hard you couldn't help but hold your breath until I blew in your face and reminded you to take in some air. I immediately bent down and did as I used to do, and you sucked in and let out a loud shriek as you threw one leg over the side of the tub. I asked you, "What's wrong?" repeatedly as you climbed in, still wearing your dirty clothes. You responded with more screaming and more tears. I tried to comfort you with one hand and quickly wash my hair and body with the other. I turned off the shower water, turned on the bath, and peeled off your wet clothes. You were asleep within seconds at my breast.

We lingered until the warm water turned cool and then I walked you around our bedroom in a towel so as not to wake you.

The phrase, "You'll always be my baby," is a common one. I believe it is the heartsong of most parents when they look at their children, no matter how old they've grown. But last night as I went to whisper those familiar words against your damp head, I heard myself say, "You can always be my baby," instead. And I meant it.

You can always be my baby.

As you've transitioned from baby to toddler, I've heard lots of advice in terms of appropriate behavior, teaching you to be independent, teaching you to calm yourself. I've been told, "She's not a baby anymore, don't let her act like one," by well meaning loved ones.

But as I listened to you scream for reasons you couldn't explain to me and then surrender your fit in my arms like all you needed was for me to just be there, I realized that's exactly what I would do for the rest of my days.

I will be there.

Whether you can explain what you're going through or not, I will be there for you to freak out. And I will be there when you're done for you to collapse into my arms. You can come to me wearing your dirty clothes, your dirty secrets, your fears and regrets. You can come and I will be there. I will not ask for an explanation, but if you offer one, I will respond without judgment.

I will just be there. 

I'm 25 years ahead of you and I still act like a baby more often than I'd like to admit. I get it. Sometimes you're just exhausted. Or afraid. Sometimes you just need to scream and you don't even know why. Sometimes you just need someone to acknowledge you. Whatever it is, I will always be your safe place to lose it.

You can always be my baby. 

I love you,