Cian’s teething. That one, that first stubborn tooth, on the bottom gum, right in front, has been there, hiding under the surface for weeks, sticking up against my finger when I feel it, but it won’t break through. It’s just hanging out, waiting for I don’t know what (maybe actual real food that’s worth the effort rather than the mushed up baby carrots I’ve been attempting to shove in there?), but it just won’t budge. Instead, it sits there, right under the skin, and taunts us. Taunts Cian, mostly, making him run his tongue over the sore skin, urging him to gnaw on anything that comes within arm’s reach: a burp cloth, my hand, his sister’s hair.
I am going to tell you that he is the happiest baby I’ve ever known. You are going to roll your eyes, sigh, and possibly close your browser window. I’m sorry. I can’t fib. It’s the truth. Ask anyone, I swear: he smiles at everybody. He cries maybe in the middle of the night, when his diaper is wet, or when that dagned darn tooth is playing hide-and-seek with his gums. But that’s it. Oh, we said while I was pregnant, we’re never going to go ANYWHERE EVER AGAIN once this baby was born, we said. It’s going to be HELL, we said, this juggling three and trying to leave the house ever, but this kid called our bluff. He came out crying when he was born, screaming like we’d just ripped him from the best place he’d ever known (Oh, yeah. Whoops), and it was like he got it all out of his system then and there. When he’s tired, he closes his eyes. When he’s restless, he sits in our lap and just hangs out while we eat our meal/talk with friends/roast marshmallows while the girls go tumbling through the grass barefoot. The cat and the girls are his favorite pastimes.
He’s like a puppy, this boy. He has these feet and hands that seem almost too big for his body, which is already outgrowing his 12-month clothes. I sit in the glider in his room at night (and in the wee hours of the morning, and sometimes still around 3 a.m. for good measure), holding him against my chest. His head rests against my shoulder, and he’ll breath a happy, shuddering sigh that makes me feel that for whatever struggles I have during the day as a mom, as much as I’ll yell at one kid for drawing on the playroom floor with fabric paint, or when I get so tired I just don’t feel like reading a book/playing a game/giving the girls a bath after they decided to play “beach” on the back deck with a hose that David thought would be a fabulous idea and mounds of dirt that used to house the tomato plants in my garden, after any of that, as long as a child can sigh like that when he’s with me, as long as someone under the age of puberty can lay his head on my shoulder and relax his tense muscles because he’s in my arms, I’m doing okay. Even if I’ll never be able to get that paint out of the carpet.
Saoirse used to like to sit just in proximity to us: she’d be on the couch, watching Sesame Street, and she’d sit close enough to know we were there, but there was always a gap–a tiny, 2-inch distance between us because that child has always liked her space. Quinn, from the time she was Cian’s age, would have to be touching us. She’d sit beside us (I think I mentioned this a couple of days ago somewhere), and one hand would always, always have to be resting on our leg, or touching our arm. She’s still like that: she’s the one who wraps her arms around one of mine in the middle of dinner to tell me she loves me, or asks to be “petted” on her back before bed.
And Cian? He lays in my arms, head on my shoulder, and lays both hands wide, palms down, on my skin. He doesn’t curl his fingers, or tuck in his arms. He throws his arms out wide, and takes hold of me. It’s like he’s claiming ownership.
One day, very soon, the baby I hold at night, the shuddering infant I’m comforting because of a single damn tooth, will become a teenager. The baby that giggles with delight when I make eye contact with him from across the room will be a man taller and wider and stronger than I am. I’ll have to look up to meet his eyes. His hands will be bigger than mine. He’ll have a deep voice and scruff on his face and have crushes on girls I don’t think are good enough for him.
But right now he’s just the baby who needs to be held because his gums hurt, and laughs out loud at his sisters, and smiles when he sees us walk into a room. He’s the baby who’s excited to stick his toes in his mouth and thinks that my hair tickling his face is HILARIOUS when I’m changing his diaper. He’s the baby who’s content to sit in a person’s lap for an hour and just listen to the conversation.
He is one of the neatest, coolest creatures I’ve ever encountered, and I cannot believe my good fortune that he’s mine. He is going to be something special. He is something special.
He’s started to give kisses, you know. Do you remember those first baby kisses? Where they get all excited and open their mouths and just sort of push their faces into yours so they can French-kiss your nose? He’s just started doing that, and I can’t tell you enough what a glorious thing thick gross baby slobber can be when it’s attached to the tiny sweet face of your own kid. Just so long as it’s just his mama’s face he’s kissing, of course. You hear that, future girlfriend? Yeah, you, the one I don’t like because your shorts are too short and you have that a-little-too-close way of hugging him in front of me? SLOBBER IS GROSS. Now, step away from my precious son.
He’s just a baby.