Hearing You

Hearing you scuffle with your sheets, with some germ, with all that irritation finding you in night’s rest, it’s unsettling and stilling to pick you up and hold you in my arms and sit with the length of you, cradling, eyes closing, breath breathing, finally resting.

I was hoping that you would sleep, that you wouldn’t wake frustrated because of last night’s deprivation, that you would be your normal bubbly self, the self that yaps and taps til I roll over, awake and not, ready to comb your hair, finalize your clothes, locate your socks, say no when asked to play.

And it was you, wavering over me with all that light piercing the curtains, persisting to reintroduce yourself as the playful one, telling me to do this or that, and waiting until I moved to act.

It was you and you had slept well.



When you ask me if I’m happy, in that light and fun voice of yours, even though it’s 6am or at a time so close to it that it feels like 6am, it lifts me and makes me feel happy, makes me remember happy, makes me reach for happiness in my heart—right after I tell you that I will be happy after I really wake up; you smile like I should be as awake as you, as if I, like you, slept for the last ten hours and not the last four or five.  And I wake up a little more because of the joy in your tone and for a little while, I convince myself that sleep will find me at the end of this day even though it’s been elusive for the last several.

The boy asleep

Question For The Week

Am I wrong for despising the pacifier?  I still remember that we had taken it from the boy, safely removed it from his mouth, back in January.

He got passed it.  He was beyond it.  He was fine.  Then he got sick.  And Dawn gave him the thing.  It was a moment of weakness probably.  I don’t think I was home.  I don’t think I found out until some time the next day.  I have a rule about not going into his room when he’s down for bed.  So I wouldn’t have found the thing stuck in his mouth until he popped his head up above the blanket flapping over his crib, his cheeks and lips folding up into a smile I couldn’t see because the white circle.

“Take that out,” I said, using my fathering voice.  He took it out.  And that started a ritual for us.  He’d wake up and call for us.  If I came in, I’d tell him to remove the pacifier.  He would.  One day it turned into the nonverbal gesture of my finger falling from my mouth.  And then, later, I wouldn’t even need to do that.  He’d see me turn the corner to his room that has no door, and he’d remove it when he saw me.  He still does it.  If he has it in his mouth and I’m around, the thing comes out without request.

I’m good at holding on to small memories like that—that being my wife returning the plug to the boy.  I’m a little too good at it actually.  I bring it up from time to time.

I say that it was a mistake to give it to him.  I say that I didn’t give it to him and that I’ve never actually given it to him since we took it from him, except for twice maybe, even though I don’t physically remove the thing from his crib.

I’m good at keeping a commitment.  And every time I see that pacifier, it’s a symbol of a commitment discarded.  He doesn’t need it.  I know he doesn’t because I’ve put him to bed without just to get proof for those women who I love and who love him.  If he drops it out of the bed, I pick him up and tell him to get it himself.  When he wakes up at night, crawling and scraping for the thing, I’ll put him on the floor and tell him to walk around the bed and get it.  “No light,” I say.  I have to include some punishment for him waking me up.  And he will get it.

Am I wrong?  It’s his pacifier.  I got rid of mine years ago.

Since January we’ve had these false attempts to take the thing.  But the grandmothers got in with Dawn to prevent success.  They did their own thing, when their own thing was secretly my wife’s thing.  They all colluded to keep my son’s mouth shut with a mini plastic nipple, making it a “necessity” for bedtime.  As I’ve said to them and to you in the paragraph above, it’s not a necessity.  He’s got them fooled.

At least they abide by the law I laid, I told myself.  “He only gets it when he’s in the bed.”  Success.  It’s interesting how I’ve started redefining my words since the boy came along.

Mondays With My Boy #2

I knew it would be a slow Monday.  The last few have been slow, trudging along the way I do most Monday mornings because my body needed more sleep than I got to recover from a long end to another week.

I woke up mumbling, grumbling that my wife was leaving.  Her foot heels clicked and capped over our floor.  I heard her rummaging through the fridge, finding food for her lunch.  I heard my boy move in his crib.

Her departure each morning sends a switch to my son.  Whenever one of us leaves, and he’s in his bed awake, we must say goodbye.  If we don’t, it’s a sign of bad things to come for the person left behind.  So the switch gets turned and Dawn greets him.  From time to time, she’ll change him or give him that sippy cup.  If she doesn’t have time, I’m limping or crawling or fumbling out of bed to do whatever.  Then Dawn leaves.

Sometimes the boy turns the switch off and returns to sleep without a sound.  Sometimes—read, on Mondays—he doesn’t. He knows it’s my day off.  He’s knows once I’m awake, grasping for darkness and wrapping my fingers around the air hoping that sleep will return, that I cannot return to sleep.  We don’t share the same switch.  He’ll happily find an hour plus nap when late morning comes and I give him back to the bed.  But me, well, I’ll sit up, unable to meet sleep, unable to sink back into that weird dream about being on some new Blue Line stop that I’ve never seen before.  No, I’ll stay awake and be mad at him because he’ll fall right to sleep.  He’ll grab that fuzzy blue or green blanket and breathe deeply until the sleep fairy comes and takes him away.

Before his nap, before he became my little enemy on Monday, we cooked breakfast.  First, we put up the clean dishes from the washer.  Second, I washed the stray dishes that were perching over the sink and along the countertop.  I have a rule: I don’t cook in a dirty kitchen.  Dirty is defined generally as a kitchen with crumbs anywhere; a kitchen with dishes in the sink; or a kitchen where any of the counters have things on top of them which will prevent me from doing my business.  Third, I cut up cherries for the boy and placed them on his high seat.  He watched me, waiting for me to put him up with the cherries.  I had time.  We had 2-3 more minutes until I knew he would complain about it being as late as 8:30 and his having not yet ate.  This kid has been telling time by his belly for months.

I started the grits, remembering that recipe that Grammie Joseph used for shrimp and grits.  I didn’t have the energy for those grits, so I improvised, thanking God for a microwave and for water and for milk and for cheese.  The grits cooled while Bryce stood there, silent, questioning me in his eyes about those cherries and about that milk.  I turned the fire under the skillet for the turkey.  Incidentally, when you don’t eat pork, can you say ‘bacon’ if you would only be eating turkey bacon in the first place?  Just a question.

The bacon crisped on the stove.  I placed the kid in the chair.  As always, he put too much in his mouth for me to think him safe.  I lectured him on how we eat one small slice of cherry at a time, maybe two.  Certainly not five.  He cheeks bulged with his eyes.  He was happy.  I knew he was because he was quiet.  He’s happy when he’s quiet and when he’s squealing.

I scrambled two eggs after the bacon finished.  He started calling.  He was done with his cherries which meant, impatient as he is, I was late with whatever was next.  I put the grits before him.  He started saying “hot” as I blew them.  Then he joined me blowing the grits.  They were already cool enough, but this blowing thing, this “hot” thing is a tradition between us.

I started spooning him grits.  I moved back and forth from the high baby seat to the stove.  “Hot” blow spoon spoon walk away.  “Hot” blow spoon spoon walk away.  He didn’t like this but he got over it.  I brought him eggs, siding them with the rest of his grits.  I pulled my bowl of grits and my saucer of bacon and eggs.  He looked at my plate and then pointed to his.  He thought I was moving too slowly.  I felt him say, “Hey, daddy, wake up.  Get it moving.”   We ate.  Him first mostly.  When he was finished, he asked for milk.  He had water.  I told him to drink that.

He pointed to the sippy cup on the counter.  “Wait,” I told him.  “Did I rush you through your breakfast?”  He looked at me, his face turning to the side.  I wondered what he was thinking. It wasn’t even nine o’clock and he was already laughing at me in his little head.  I got up to give him his milk after I finished.  He drank and I watched.