The Unbearable Lightness of 2-Year Old Arms


The other night (morning?) at 3:30am, I could hear Chuckles crying in his room. Sergeant Handsome had left for work thirty minutes earlier- thank you ward rounds in the hospital- and I was nursing the baby for the 54th 3rd time that night.

But he was calling MY name. Not “Daddy.” Of late, he’s been all about dad and not so much about me and I am a little ashamed to admit it, but I was glad that it was me he was calling for, 3:30am or not.

Into the swing went Spike and over the ridiculously tall baby gate at the door of the boys’ room went I, trying to be as quiet as possible as I entered into the abyss.

The darkness of the room, the sound of the rain pouring on the sound machine, and the just barely discernible deep breathing of the two older boys gives the room a heavy and peaceful feel. But not for my Chuckles, who crawled to the end of his bed and reached out for me.

People always talk about parents having favorite children (which, by the way, I think is a myth-while I’m really still at the start of my parenting career, I can’t imagine picking one over the other), but what about when kids have a favorite parent? It goes in waves and favor seems to switch back and forth depending on age and circumstance. But when it’s not me that’s the favorite? It kind of hurts.

I know that it’s silly. What do I care what a 2 year old prefers? Intellectually I know that he loves us both. My heart has other ideas. Because wouldn’t you want him to reach for you? To want to hold your hand? To be the one he cries about when you leave?

And so it is that I found myself laying next to him in his bed, snuggled against the unusually cold night, trying to curry his favor and drinking in the gloriousness of his being two years old.

Gabrielle Blair, of Design Mom fame, said in a post recently that two year olds are both grown-ups and still babies, all at the same time. It’s an apt description. During the day this boy is busy and independent and exploring his world. He wants to “do it myself” and “what about me?” and “I DO IT!” He’s climbing and adding hundreds of new words to his vocabulary and imagining worlds beyond our own. I need not assist him.

But in that moment, in the middle of the night, he wanted help. He wanted snuggles. He wanted me.

So we lay.

Restless at first, he finally settles in- his forehead touching my forehead, my arm gripped tightly to his chest by his strong, big, tiny, lightweight arms. So big for his age and yet still so small compared to what he’ll grow up to be. A contradiction in terms, all within those arms.

The minutes pass. His breathing slows. The grip on my arm slackens. He’s back asleep.

Despite the time of night, despite the fact that I know the baby will need to eat again in a couple of hours, I mourn the slipping away of his hug as he drifts back to sleep. For those few minutes I was all he needed to make the entire universe right again.

He won’t even remember the moment. But what a gift it was for me.


no-terrible-twos, two-year-old-likes-dad-better

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  1. This is the best feeling in the world. My 7 year old is very “Mr. Independent” But I love when he calls on me for extra hugs before bed. Or when he tells me that I am the only one who can make things better. He is usually all about his Dad, so Ill take what I can get 🙂

  2. This is so sweet and made me tear up… My 3 year old drives me crazy pretty much 23 hours of out of the day, but when these moments arise, it’s impossible not to forget about my frustration and melt over her. Thank God for these redeeming moments in the midst of toddlerhood! 🙂

  3. So sweet.
    Two year olds really are adults/babies. Mine is no different. It surprises me just as much when he whines to fall asleep with me as it does when he prefers to hold his own backpack or walk down the stairs without holding my hand.

  4. I love this, and I know all of it SO WELL right now. Della is 2.5 and such the little person during the day. Just like yours, “all by myself” is her new favorite phrase. But her bedtimes have been bad lately, and no matter how those cries of “Maaa-maaaa!” grate on my nerves when they come so late at night, the touch of her little hands and hugs melt all that away.

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