Happy birthday, Tara! I wanted to offer this birthday tribute to my daughter Tara, a hard-working, stay-at-home mom with five children. You can still find Tara online writing her humorous antics about her kids on Facebook. Plus, we’re working on a book together that I hope to be telling you about soon.
“It’s almost naptime,” I announce as my toddler, Ethan, rubs his hazel green eyes with closed fists. Apple juice stains and a smeared banana dot his gray pullover shirt. His round, pink cheeks are sticky and wet. He lets out an exhausted squeal and frowns with arms outstretched. I kneel on one knee and pull him close.
One down. “You’re sleepy, aren’t you?” Firmly grasping the back of our jade green sofa, I slowly rise with a grimace, aware of the achy weakness in my lower back and hips. His twenty-five pound body twists and squirms in my left arm, as I maintain balance with my right. The pain subsides for a moment, as I rest on the barstool behind me.
I spot the white plastic box and pop open the top. Holding on to me firmly, Ethan curiously eyes my hand, as I reach in and pull out a wet cloth. He lets out a protesting screech, as I wipe the evidence of lunch from his face. A sigh of relief escapes his mouth when I finish. Then, I stand up, repositioning him on my left hip.
“Tell Aidan ‘night-night,’” I whisper.
Their eyes meet, and the brothers share a grin. Aidan bolts from his relaxed position on the loveseat and dashes behind it, giggling. As I turn to walk into the nursery, I glance over my shoulder with a loving smirk at my lively three year old.
Ethan and I stare out of his bedroom window for a brief moment before closing the blinds and pulling a dark shade over the window. I hear a hound barking in the distance. Ethan points to the sound machine and says, “This?”
I guide his tiny finger to the button, and he mashes down on it, kicking both legs with a squeak of delight. Crickets come alive in his bedroom, and his body begins to relax.
Reaching up onto a high shelf, I find his treasured pacifiers and clip one onto his shirt, as he grabs another with his chubby hand. His eyes almost roll back, as he takes it in his mouth and leans into my shoulder. Placing a gentle kiss in the center of his forehead, I whisper, “Night-night.” Then, I glide out of his bedroom, softly shutting the door behind me.
One to go. Two playful eyes peek at me around the corner of the living room entrance, but quickly disappear. Following the sound of padded footsteps, I stand before the loveseat, hands on my hips. Brief annoyance is overcome with an irresistible urge to grin at his mischievous snicker.
Regaining control of myself, I declare, “You have a choice, Aidan,” with as much sincerity as I can without cracking up. “You can walk to your room like a big boy, and we will read a story. Or I can carry you to your room, and we will have no story time.”
A frustrated grunt is followed by an expectant smile, “Okay. But can I watch a movie first?”
As we walk down the hall, I respond, “Maybe after naptime.”
“Can I have some hot milk?”
“You already had your milk.”
“Can I have some juice?”
Aidan climbs on his bed and frowns at me, “But Daddy says I can have some juice.”
“Mommy says you can have juice after naptime. Scoot over, so we can read a story,” I attempt to change the subject.
“Can I sit on you?” I nod in approval, as he crawls on my legs and squirms, until he has found a comfortable position. He rubs the back of his head into my chest, and his blonde hair tickles my chin. I close my eyes, as I take in the scent of Lavender baby wash.
“Once upon a time …” Aidan is fascinated by the illustrations and words he has seen and heard at least a hundred times before. Again and again he points and asks, “What’s that?”
Before we know it, the last page is turned, and before I can say, “the end,” Aidan is begging for just one more story. I close the story book, and I roll him over onto his bed. “Let’s say a prayer,” I suggest.
“Let me do it,” Aidan insists eagerly. Then, squinting with wrinkled forehead wrinkled, he sneaks a peek at me out the corner of his eye. I pretend not to notice, and I wait for him to begin his prayer.
“Dear Jesus,” he begins emphatically, “Thank you for Daddy and Mommy and Miles and Ethan and Nonnie and Pop and Grandma Susie and Mary and Pepaw and Adam and Jenni and Zach and Robyn and Karl and baby Ross and Jenny in New York and all my friends and … and … Mommy and Daddy… Amen.”
Yawning, Aidan curls up on his side, and I cover him with a soft baby blue fleece blanket. His sky blue eyes glisten, and his pale skin glows in the light from his bedroom window. I take pleasure in sharing the few seconds of stillness that has momentarily overcome his tiny body.
“I waked up!” Gently standing and reaching for the blinds, I am startled by his sudden movement. Sitting straight up, an innocent voice announces, “I waked up! Can I have a prize?”
I smile and tuck him back in. “Night-night, Aidan.” I pull the shade over his window, and the room darkens. He is almost invisible under the covers. I press the button on the sound machine and listen to the familiar cricket song.I tiptoe across the room and start to pull his door shut when I hear, “Um, Mommy?”
“Um, Mommy, I love you.”
My heart melts.
“I love you, too.”
Tara Jordan Ross holds a masters in gifted education and degrees in early childhood and special education. She lives in Texarkana, Texas, with her husband Jonathan; they have five children. Tara was a special education teacher for several years before deciding to stay home with her children. Besides managing a busy household, she enjoys writing about her experiences as a mother and teacher.
Do you have some special naptime memories with your kids?