The World on Your Shoulders

It’s nearing 8:30p in our house, signaling the beginning of “Adult Time.” The kids are in bed, sleeping soundly. The chores of the day are (somewhat) finished. The pets have been fed, and are now lounging lazily about the house. In another half hour, my TV will be filled with zombies and my glass with Shiraz. It’s a beautiful Sunday night.

Tonight, like most nights, we started our bath and bedtime routing around 7:30p. I bathe Grant while Evan bathes Miles; I sing Grant to sleep, then I read Miles his 487 library books and we snuggle, and it’s lights out. The routine rarely changes; but tonight, while the routine remained the same, something in me changed.

As I sang, I gave Grant his last bottle of the day (ha – until 2am, anyway). He dozed off, and I put him over my shoulder, trying with futility to draw out one last burp. But, once sleeping, Grant is content to do nothing else. And so I sat, and I rocked in the still, quiet nursery, with Grant on my shoulder. It was then that I felt it.

I noticed the weight. His weight. The weight of my child on my shoulder. The familiar old adage of, “Carrying the weight on his shoulders…” referencing Atlas, crossed my mind.

So this is what it feels like.

My child, my world, on my shoulder. I sat and felt his body rise and fall with each breath. I listened closely to his baby noises of sleep: the grunts, snuffles and sighs. I felt his small hands perched on my chest and arm, holding on to his mama. I smelled his head, and that sweet, baby scent filled my lungs. In the still, quiet nursery, I felt my heart near to bursting with the overwhelming love that I carry for this tiny, tiny person.

Yes, this is what it feels like.

In those moments I could remember, experience and foresee a lifetime of worlds on my shoulder. It doesn’t seem so long ago that it was Miles perched on my shoulder, sighing a sleepy breath into my neck, drifting off into dreams. I can still feel the warmth of his precious body, although it’s been months since he has fallen asleep on mama. For you see, my baby is a big boy now…and it happened in the blink of an eye.

Although it was only minutes, it felt like hours, Grant snuggled up to me. But soon enough, Miles was ready for his PJs and story time and just like that, Grant was slipped into his safe, warm crib, and I was off to mama my first baby.

Snuggled up to Miles, reading our books, he sighed next to me on the pillow. We’d had a very busy and very fun day at church, and with our friends and family. Lots of running and playing and yelling and kicking the soccer ball into our goal. You know, big kid stuff. I could see the joyful exhaustion on Miles’ face as he climbed into bed. And now, sighing next to me, I could feel his sleepy body against mine. As we started the fourth book, he rested his head on my shoulder, and just like that it was there again: the world. My world.

These very young years truly do slip by in an instant. Life marches on, and days can be busy and hectic. But I have learned that no matter the day, I must must must stop and savor every single moment.

Earlier this week, we’d had a run of early evening rainstorms. Grant was already asleep, and Evan was giving Miles his bath while I stood at the sink, washing our dinner dishes. The teeniest, tiniest of frogs jumped onto the outside of the kitchen window. As soon as I noticed the frog, all I could think of was how much Miles would love to see this. And without a second thought, I went into the bathroom and scooped him up in a towel, mid-bath, so he could see this tiny wonder on our window. We stood at the kitchen sink, just the three of us, and Miles stared in pure fascination. We talked about where the frog might live, what his little frog house could look like, what he may have eaten for dinner, all while the shampoo bubbles dripped onto my kitchen floor. The floor, the dishes, those things didn’t matter in that moment; what I cared most about was watching my son discover this tiny frog, and it was worth every single second.

When I’m rocking Grant in the wee, small hours of the morning, I know how brief this time is. I know that soon he’ll be rolling over, crawling, walking, running, and talking up a storm. In those middle-of-the-night times, I may be tired, but I am so incredibly thankful for the joy and privilege to be mama to these two boys, and to sit there with my tiniest one, perched on my shoulder.

Each age brings new adventures and discoveries; each age is incredibly fun, and challenging, all at the same time. As Miles has grown older, I’ve said, “18 months is my favorite age…” then “two years old is my favorite age…” followed by “2 ½ is my favorite age!” You get the idea. I have realized they are all my favorite because we are so fully in the moment at each age, we unquestionably experience them as the best possible age, ever. A head on my shoulder from a sleeping infant, or during story time with my toddler, will turn into a head on my shoulder during a dance at his wedding. As much as I beg time to just slow down, I also remind myself that my boys will be just that – my boys – forever. We will have our “world on my shoulder” moments at every age. And while the thought of these young days passing does make me sad, I am filled with excitement and encouragement for what our future holds, too.

To know the weight of this love for my boys, my world, is unexplainable. There is no other love like it, although it does give me the tiniest of hints as to how God loves us. He does a pretty good job of carrying us on His shoulder, too.

The boys will get bigger, yet my shoulder still carries them – my world – on it.  Always.

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