When Molly wakes up at 5:30 in the morning, she gets to take a nap two hours later. I don't. I get to entertain the boy, and neither of us are entirely sure what we should be doing during this wasted morning nap time. I usually clean up breakfast, attempt to sweep the floors, eat my own breakfast and, let's face it, check my email. Maybe I check my email every three minutes. WHO KNOWS.
I'm usually quick enough to whisk Molly out of her crib before she wakes up the rest of the house, but this morning she was jabbering to herself long before I was even coherent. Jack was awake. I hoped he'd go back to sleep, but I wasn't so lucky. And that's what did it -- a poorly rested Jackson is a curse upon the entire Cheung household. While I was clearing off the table and, okay, CHECKING MY EMAIL, I ADMIT IT, he was whining and whimpering and looking pathetic. And when he wasn't whining and whimpering he was spilling his milk and sending Legos under every piece of furniture and climbing the bookcase and barking, "Want! Milk! Want! Milk!" over and over and over.
(It's not always milk, by the way. It's really whatever happens to be in plain sight. Or in his imagination. Or whatever he thinks I might give him if he asks long enough. "Want! Snack!" is a popular one, and one he says at all hours of the day. "Want! Balloon!" "Want! Blankie!" "Want! See!" And the more I say "NO" the faster he "Want!"s and eventually I'm all, "Want THIS, kid!" Well no, not really. I'm not THAT mean.)
I knew he wanted attention. I knew he wanted to play. I knew all I had to do was tear myself away from whatever grown up thing I might be doing and maybe toss him a ball or pretend to drink a glass of water from the play kitchen sink. But I didn't want to. I was tired. I felt like whining and whimpering too, but my mom lives 45 minutes away and probably wouldn't clean my bathrooms for me anyway.
So I ignored him. I had things to do. (LIKE MAYBE CHECKING MY EMAIL.) Of course anyone with a toddler knows that Ignoring is not a particularly successful coping method, as they tend to gravitate toward your body like little sweaty, fussy, inconsolable magnets. Soon, I had a two year old leaning his sad little forehead against my elbow, making these awful "Eh! Eh! Eh!" noises, like he knew that breaking into a full on whine would get him a swift trip to the corner. He stood there, his hands raised to be picked up, his face screwed into the most pathetic expression of abandonment, and I knew I'd lost. Not because my heart had melted at the sight of his puppy dog eyes, but because I knew I wasn't going to WIN. It was either pick him up and tend to the whimpering, or swallow the rest of the dishwasher detergent to put myself out of my misery.
I picked him up. The tears subsided, but he was too smart to let go of the Pathetic Face so easily. I decided that if I was going to give up, I was at least going to be comfortable, so I dragged Jack and myself over to the couch. I kicked my feet up, pulled Jack into a little snuggle against the pillows, and -- I could barely believe it -- he STAYED PUT. There I was, cuddling with the child who refuses to cuddle. Mopping up his tears, smelling his hair, pressing his still-baby skin against mine.
I'm not sure how long he was content to lay against me. It was so sweet and simple and I spent that time berating myself for not being a better mother, for being too selfish to give him whatever he so obviously needed.
There I was, awash in my resolutions to Do Better, when a tiny little voice, a voice that sensed victory, whispered, "Want! Cup! Cake!"