Before Lucas was born, we bought a rocking chair. I wanted to have a comfortable place to sit with him in his room while I fed and rocked him. After we got the nursery together, I often relaxed in the rocker, surveying his room and enjoying the peaceful setting. I imagined my baby there with me, snuggled in my arms. I imagined him sleeping contentedly in his crib. I pictured diapering him on his changing table. In my mind’s eye I could see chubby fingers turning the pages of the books that so neatly lined his little shelf.
Life wasn’t a whole lot like I pictured it once he did show up. There were no more tranquil afternoons of sitting still. Lucas never once slept a full night in his crib. I changed his diaper on the carpet downstairs much more than on his changing table. The books in this room littered the floor more often than they adorned the shelf once he could crawl and grab. But my imagination did get one thing right–the hours and hours spent rocking in that chair.
I had people warn me against rocking Lucas to sleep. “You will regret it when he can’t get to sleep on his own,” they said. It was hard to imagine ever regretting it the first time I held him there. He was so tiny and sweet, and we had waited so long for him. And as time went on and we learned who he was and what he needed, it seemed obvious that those moments were important to him. I’m not saying we never wished he would fall asleep on his own, or that he didn’t need the comfort and safety of our arms quite so much, but we stuck to the rocking because it was the best decision for all of us.
That chair stayed in Lucas’s room until he was three and a half. At that point he informed us that he was ready for a big bed and we changed his room over from baby to big boy. His rocker was replaced by an orange, egg-shaped swirly chair.
The other night, I was sitting with Lucas on his bed. He was sobbing and heartbroken because Jaime was gone and he felt there was no way on earth he could get to sleep without seeing him. Jaime usually puts Lucas to bed, but was at a late meeting that night. And so I found myself pulling him into my arms and once again rocking him. It got me thinking about all those days and nights I rocked my baby, then toddler, to sleep. And how somewhere along the line, I rocked him to sleep for the last time, even though I didn’t realize it. Suddenly I was so grateful I had ignored that advice. I am thankful for all those moments–the sweet, peaceful ones, and even the stressed and frazzled ones when I thought he would never ever in a million years fall asleep. All those moments are part of our history together. Somewhere along the way he stopped needing to be rocked, and that chapter in our lives ended.
For a fleeting moment, I thought maybe I’d get another chance to rock him to sleep the other night. Maybe this would be the last time. But after he was sufficiently comforted, he asked to lay back down on his pillow. At this point, stretching out in bed is more comfortable for him. My heart hurt a little but I think I heard an audible sigh of relief from my arm which was already cramped up and sore.
Another bit of advice I received before Lucas was born was to cherish every stage of his life because each one passes so quickly. That has certainly proved true. At first that sentiment evoked a kind of panic in me, that I somehow needed to stop the hands on the clock. But what I’ve come to realize, is that although I do miss things from the past, there are new things to enjoy in each new phase. At age four, I do miss rocking my boy. But I love hearing him chatter on (and on) about what’s on his mind. I’m fascinated by his vivid imagination and the ways in which he is figuring out the world around him. I love how he bounces and runs and skips everywhere because the joy and enthusiasm in his heart finds its way into his little legs. I love all his songs, the funny ways he explains things, and his tendency to make up a word if he doesn’t know the real one. I especially adore his little mistakes. (As I type this, he is singing at the top of his lungs, “S-P-E-L-L, I really love to read!”). 🙂
I’ll probably never rock Lucas to sleep again, but I’ll never forget the days I did. And I look forward to all the firsts and even the lasts that each new stage holds. After all, it’s all of part of this wonderful experience called motherhood.