His room is dark. Discarded books are piled on the nightstand, his empty cup on top. I whisper that it’s time for our song, and he snuggles into position. I begin to sing as he wraps his arms around my neck and lays his head in that perfect convergence of shoulder, chest and neck. He rubs his nose into my skin, a holdout habit of his infancy. He folds his legs around my waist and we rock together to the familiar tune.
As I sing, he lifts up his head to kiss my cheeks, my lips. He puts his hands on my face and looks me in the eye. We smile at each other. At 22 months, he can’t talk yet, but this ritual says more to me than those three words could, anyway.
“Mommy, I know it’s been a long day.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have woken up at 5:30. Naked.”
“Next time I whine because my brother got milk in his cereal and I didn’t, I’ll try not to spill my bowl two seconds after you cave and give me milk, too.”
“I know it took extra time and I actually made things worse, but wasn’t it kind of fun when we swept up the mess together?”
“I’m sorry I pulled your favorite necklace until it broke.”
“I’m really going to control my urge to destroy my brother’s Lego towers and to mess up his perfectly aligned race cars and to throw his dinosaurs into the bathtub.”
“I’m sorry I screamed for milk and toys and Elmo and attention while you took a work call.”
“Thank you for picking me up 347 times today. I know I can be overdramatic.”
“Thank you for laughing instead of yelling when I poured that bowl of rice on my head.”
“Thank you for being patient with me. I’m still figuring things out.”
“Mommy, you’re doing OK.”
Our song comes to an end. I tuck him in and bend to kiss his forehead. He grabs my hand as I move to walk away. We smile together, and I am restored.