I put Oliver down for his nap and fell back onto my bed. I stared up at the ceiling fan for who knows how long thinking about things that I was upset about that didn't really matter. I knew I was being melodramatic, but (as sometimes happens with people) I didn't want to give up my foul mood. Just as I rolled over and cracked open my novel, Oliver's sudden, frantic screaming broke through the white noise.
That isn't normal. Oliver doesn't usually wake up screaming.
My immediate reaction was anger. Or maybe it was exasperation. I wanted to relax and I didn't want to deal with him anymore. I was done for the afternoon. I didn't want to take care of anybody else, let alone myself.
Reluctantly, I pushed open the door to his room and walked in. I felt guilty as soon as I saw his face. He really was terrified. I scooped him up and his head burrowed into my shoulder as if he were trying to hide. He was still crying, chattering something about being scared between his sobs.
I brought him to my room and laid him down on the bed. I sat down next to him and started rubbing his back, but that didn't calm him enough. He crawled onto my lap. I started to object.
"There isn't enough room for you on my lap. My belly is in the way and you're too big. You don't fit. Why don't you snuggle up right here in my bed?"
He ignored me and kept wiggling onto my lap. He eventually settled with his legs splayed out on both sides of me. His torso curled over my stomach. His head rested on my chest. His arms went around me like he was hugging me tight. It wasn't the most comfortable position for me, but he had quieted and I didn't want to ruin a good thing. Besides that, it was just a tiny bit nice that he wanted me to hold him.
He was so still that I thought he was sleeping until I heard him say without moving, "Sing songs, Mommy."
Jared and I both sing songs to him before bed every night. This wasn't an unusual request, but for some reason my mind blanked and I could only think of a Guster song I used to listen to in high school. Regardless of not knowing all the words, I gave the song a go.
Shining like a work of art
Hanging on a wall of stars
Are you what I think you are?
It was almost a perfect coincidence that this random song that I never think about came into my head that afternoon. The song is low key. The lyrics are nice to sing to a small boy. Oliver listened intently to a new song with new words.
You're my satellite.
You're riding with me tonight.
Passenger side, lighting the sky,
Always the first star that I find.
You're my satellite.
I got as far as I could go in the song, making up lines as I went along and repeating the chorus too many times. I stopped singing.
"More song, Mom."
The laptop was right next to me so I found the song, set it to play, and sang along with it. The music came to an end, and without looking up at me Oliver demanded,
"Again. More song, Mom."
I played the song again, but as soon as the last note rang out he demanded another listen. Again and again the song ended, again and again he demanded more.
I put the song on an endless loop, piecing together bigger strings of lyrics the longer it played. I sang with the song on repeat for 25 minutes. I felt Oliver's breathing slow as the whole weight of his unconscious body slowly melted onto me. He was finally sleeping.
I turned off the song and he didn't stir. Again I looked up at the ceiling fan and thought about my day. But this time I thought maybe things weren't so bad. Even though I was sorry Oliver was scared, it was nice to be needed. It was nice to be useful for once when I've been feeling so useless. It was good to be reminded of my place in life.
I sat holding him in silence for another fifteen minutes while my legs went numb. Oliver's baby brother kicked at him, but Oliver didn't stir. I took the time to pet Oliver's hair while I had him there, a captive audience too sleepy to protest. He never lets me hold him anymore.
After some time I stood up and walked Oliver back to bed. His eyes opened as I laid him down. I expected him to protest going back to bed. I expected him to ask for water, a story, a song, a hug... I expected him to try and wheedle his way out of bedtime like he always does.
Instead he said, "I still fit."
At first I didn't understand. I didn't say anything, so he said it again.
"On your lap. I still fit, Mom."
How stupid I was to think that he wouldn't. Of course he still fits.