Letter to My Clingy, Cranky, Teething Child

I knew I shouldn’t have gotten used to the 12 hour nights, perfect, clockwork naps, and how amazing you were doing with independent play in the past few months… I knew that.

But I did… I sort of took it all for granted. That’s how well you were doing!

Until, of course, that nasty molar popped in a few months early.Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.28.29 PM

This week has been rough on Mommy, you know. Between your ravenous appetite (most days you almost eat more than I do) and needing to come up with daily menus a la carte; your earsplitting cries when you realize, only 34 seconds later, that I tiptoed out of the play room to fold some laundry or empty the dishwasher; your meltdowns when I won’t let you slam my iPhone on the hardwood floors or put Pepper’s tail in your slobbering mouth. Tragic, I know. Most of the time, you refuse to hear me out, or wailing just feels too good, I’m not quite sure.

Like I said, this week has been rough, that’s all.

The Wonder Weeks app says you’re six days past the “storm” phase, but Mommy feels like she’s mid hurricane in an old, rickety sailboat, just waiting for the skies to clear. That’s all, just a little bit of sunshine through the clouds.

Just one, well-earned sigh of relief before the winds pick up again.

I know I shouldn’t complain so much. Mommy knows that when you call “Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama”, your head poking over the multicolored fence of your play room, you’re just hoping I’ll come on in and throw you a ball, or even better, ask you where the horse is, the rabbit, the turtle, the fish. All you want is to point at each one and yell “Da!” like it’s the greatest victory of all time, before flashing me your proud, nine (nine!) tooth grin.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.28.24 PM

Mommy knows that when you grab her by the neck, cheeks wet with tears, you’re really saying, “Never leave me again, Mommy, please.” And Mommy knows that when you cry out for her, even if it’s only been a minute or two so I can steam your chicken and veggies, it’s already been a minute too long. Because inside your little mind,  you don’t know when I’ll be back. You might even think I’m gone for good this time, and Mommy doesn’t want you to ever, ever think that.

Some days I push you a little too hard so you finally take those steps everyone’s been asking about. But you don’t want to right now, and that’s fine. You’re too busy learning to be bilingual and perfecting those hugs we can’t get enough of. You’re a smart cookie, little man, and we play by your rules, your timing. We know that.

Mommy needs to remind herself that it’s days like today when you need me more than ever. That’s my job, isn’t it? Laundry and dishes can wait. No distractions, just you and me being silly. You need me to help you through those tender gums and growing pains, even if it just means holding you a little longer, a little tighter, reading another book before bedtime, even if we already read three.

But Mommy knows she’ll miss these moments one day, even if they’re rough on her now.

So tonight, as I sing you a lullaby in your dark room like I always do, I’ll hug you a little longer, a little tighter, just to make sure you fall asleep knowing I’ll be there again in the morning… even if the skies haven’t cleared.

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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