It’s late. Only 9pm. But so late. The night shift will soon begin and the day shift with bathtimes and teeth brushing battles has only just begun to wind down. I slink away for a bit to steal some quiet and maybe some few moments of sleep in between shifts.

But they find me.

Small feet come first and bring whispers of, “Mama, can I come snuggle with you a bit?” And he’s clambering in and behind me, pulling the blankets, readjusting the pillows, talking all the while.

“Mama, can we chat?”

I force myself to think very slowly. To process the words before they come out my mouth so that what he hears isn’t, “no, no, no please leave me alone before Zoe wakes up again” but instead, “yes, I’d love to chat with you, Jackson.”

I love you.

That’s what I need him to hear. With his ears and his heart.

So we snuggle in the warm dark and he talks in earnest about how fast boys run on the playground and who tried to kick him and why and how they are still firm friends. He whispers so loud and lies so close and smells of his daddy’s body wash that he knows he’s not supposed to use. And he pauses now and again to exclaim as if in surprise how much he loves me and I repeat it back and we both revel in the reconnecting.

The rediscovering that we actually like each other as much as we love each other.

Because babies can be hard on moments like this and we’ve lost many of ours these last few weeks. Distance has not made the hearts grow fonder and we have snapped and barked at each other until the last thing I wanted was to snuggle with my five-year-old.

“What’s wrong with that boy?” I’ve asked Pete. And I’ve listed how loud and fast and rough and non-stop-talkative he is. And Pete just pointed out that that’s how he’s been the whole time; it’s me and my measuring the world against my baby-sized ruler that’s changed. I was surprised to hear it. That maybe we need more of each other and not less.

So I pulled back the covers when what I wanted to do was ask him to go back to his own bed.

I pulled back the covers to a small boy with big feelings. And that has made all the difference.

{Photo credit: Natalie Webb}