And then I say each time, "G, do not jump on the stairs," because that's also what mamas do, and he counters YES ME JUMP and squeezes me tight around the neck with happy love, he thinks I'm a worrier, this boy, he doesn't understand the perils of gravity because I've never yet betrayed his mama-catcher trust. Nonose? he asks, which may sound to you like "no nose" but in fact means "noses" and before I can affirm his request he smashes his face against mine, using my ears for leverage. And now he as my ears, his favorite lovies, and he isn't going to let go.
Tiss? he asks, meaning "kiss" and I cannot answer with more than the beginning of a smile before his lips find mine. And then he licks me. WIBBIT! and, in case I didn't know, ME FWOG! He doesn't let go of my ears. He doesn't often speak in less than CAPS LOCK.
We climb in bed. He holds both ears. I set his milk on the table, having handed the girls' to their daddy, whose role is reduced to bedtime facilitator, catching milks and squeezing toothpastes. G lets go to raise his index finger, the sausage-linkiest pointer ever before thrust in such earnestness. Just ONE, he entreats, the boy who used to read a handful of books each night but just wants Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? on repeat for ten minutes each evening. We ease down, together, there's a whole maneuver, he never letting go of ears, I wrapping one arm behind his neck, lifting the backs of his knees up over my thigh. He's in his own orthopedic rocking chair now, ergonomically bent and cradled, and I'm the chair.
WHOOPING CWANE WIGHT DEHR! he tells me, as if I didn't know from the reading of 90 seconds' past, and HE WIGHT? "Yes, the whooping crane is white," I agree, which the boy already knows. But he's in a Phase, an Identifying one, so we have to point out the obvious even when it is. We nod sagely at each other. MACA PENGEE ALTO WIGHT! (The macaroni penguin is also white. It's true, kid.)
MOOJZ YOUR HAIR? He looks at me with a mix of concern and disappointment. A lock of my hair has fallen into his ear-holding space. I move it but as hair is wont to do, it slips again. He softens his tone. Moojz your hair Mama pweez? He shows me his Serious Eyes, indicating that the "please" represents him on his good behavior and also representative of deep needs, and could I arrange for my hair to honor his request at this time?
We finish Panda Bear (again) and he tosses it exuberantly to the floor. A-BLA! he yells, his is G-lexicon for the more conventional "ta-da!" We agree on sitting up, on putting his milk down on the table, on turning off the bedside light. We lie down together again. He's kept at least one ear this whole time. "Close your eyes, love," I whisper, and he agrees, only after yelling out one final WEE-HA!, which is yee-haw, because sometimes he's a cowboy.
He falls asleep and I sneak out of his bed. Not far off, there are two girls wide awake and awaiting their mama-snuggles, remembering a recent time when their brother preferred a daddy bedtime routine. In my heart I whisper apologies to each of them that they must wait, even as I whisper to myself how soul-filling it is to be so loved and needed.