Holding my baby boy

It’s late, and I’m tired. But our little boy has a cough. It’s just not going away. And he’s having trouble getting to sleep.
So I scoop him up. He’s too big to carry these days and I know it. I’ll feel it tomorrow. But he’s still my baby boy. I take him into the bathroom and turn on the shower.
As the steam fills the room, he looks around, drowsy but full of questions.
“Do you see the clouds?”
“Why is it smoky?”
“Can I draw on the mirror?”
Finally he starts to relax, cuddled in my arms.
He’s no baby, this 6-year-old kindergartener. He’s independent and opinionated and unstoppable. Most days he doesn’t want me to help him with his bicycle helmet or unlocking the front door. But tonight he needs his mama. He doesn’t need me to do anything except be with him. So here I am.
His long legs dangle down as his head rests on my shoulder. I hum and then sing the lullabies he may not remember well. But I remember. I’ve sung them in different houses, on different continents, at different times in our lives–including a time when I was a stranger to this precious child.
Toora loora loora, toora loora li….

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…
The words and tunes vary, but they all have the same message: Go to sleep. I love you. Oh, please, please go to sleep. Yes, I love you.
As we sit together in the steam, I find myself wondering whether tonight I am singing for my little boy or for me. He is enjoying the comfort and warmth and closeness. I am trying to hold onto these precious moments with a child who long ago outgrew his mother’s lap and lullabies.
How many times have I paced and rocked a sick child in the middle of the night, praying and wondering what we should do until the doctor’s office opens the next morning. Those days seem so long ago now. When did I last do this?
I’m sad that he isn’t feeling well. I wish I could take away the cough and the restlessness and the sniffles. But I’m cherishing these moments with him in my arms, these moments that take me back to when he needed his Mama and Baba for almost everything.
Through my thoughts, I realize he is breathing more quietly, resting in my arms, fast asleep. I carry him back to his bed and tuck him in.

I’ll be back to check on him later, and we may be back in a steamy bathroom before the night is through. But for now my baby boy is sleeping.
Sleep well, not-so-little one. 

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.