My lips pressed up against the back left of his head. My nostrils taking in his sweet smell of Johnson & Johnson’s no-tangle baby shampoo. It wasn’t his usual scent, the combination of urine and maple syrup. He was clean and it was bedtime.

He was snuggled in the crevice of my armpit on the couch. I can’t remember the last time Holden sat still for longer than 20 minutes, and I didn’t even care we were watching the ‘Elf on the Shelf movie’ in April. His choice, I couldn’t argue for my only other options are Elmo and Barney. Of which all three movies I can completely script out every line after the astronomical amount of times we’ve watched them.

He hasn’t been in a mommy phase over the last couple of weeks. Always choosing whoever is more fun to be around when we’re with other people. Primarily because mommy and time-outs go hand-in-hand almost daily. It breaks my heart more than it does his. The ever-so-frequent temper tantrum in which all 31.6 pounds of him is thrown to the ground I assume could be comparable to a soap opera audition. I will admit though, the time-outs really are starting to work. I can actually seeunderstanding come across his face near the end of his time-outs when I ask if he’s ready to be a good boy. Earlier today I laughed to myself as we walked down the hall and he pointed to his time-out corner and let out a whine and looked at me. I looked down and said, “No baby, no time-out. Good boy right now.” He smiled with a nose scrunch and said, “heh.”

It was past his bedtime, but I didn’t care. Normally I do, sticking to the routine religiously. Not tonight. He didn’t mind sitting next to mommy and I had to indulge. I had to reap the handful of these minutes I’ve had such withdrawls for since turning two, since the loving-mommy phase ended. I let him blow his grape-scented Jelly Belly bubbles the Easter bunny had left in his basket Sunday as he sits on the couch. I combed through his freshly-rinsed hair with my fingertips and closed my eyes. He laid his head back on my arm around him to blow the bubbles higher. I kissed his temple and left my face against his. Felt my heart beat.

After I tucked him in tight for the night, turning on button number two on his sound machine, the rain noise, and turned off his light, I immediately started flipping through pictures as I do often when I am in need of more Holden. Skim through the past two years of his life, all his memories. All he knows.

Tears drop down my cheeks.

Nostalgia. In just the few minutes I had snuggling with him on the couch, I was flooded with this overwhelming… joy? I guess that would be the word closest to what I’m trying to describe. It’s physical, deep. The consistent feeling I would have throughout the first few days of Holden’s life. When I got to hold him, touch him, smell him, love him. And that’s all I had to do at the time. That was my purpose.

It’s not that the feeling isn’t there anymore. It’s just not as apparent when I have diarrhea smeared on the couch and toothpaste in my hair.

That joy is still present during the toddler phase, but it’s these subtle moments that channel it back to me. These quiet minutes with Holden on the couch before bedtime, in which I can completely tune out….”SANTA! THIS LETTER IS FROM TAYLOR? TAYLOR MCTUTTLE?!”… and just be next to him, hold him, smell him, love him. All I had to do tonight.


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