It was 3pm on a Sunday.
Oh my sleeping child
My child was asleep, her wriggly frame for once was still – having struggled to fall asleep, stay asleep, or enjoy the sleep she sorely needed in what seemed like nightly battles and hourly wakings for the past dreadful month that left me defeated and perpetually zombi-fied.
Those six-month old fingers learning the pincer grasp have all too often scratched, gouged, pinched, stabbed me unintentionally – now lay motionless by her side. I wanted to press her palm with my thumb and feel its warmth uncurl through my veins, reaching the frosty corner of my heart conquered by stress, frustration, and many unkind tones.
I stared at the long lashes framing her chubby cheeks, wanting to stroke the wispy baby-fine hair that barely covers her head – hair that I imagine one day tying up with ribbons, or bangs to comb as she dances around me saying, “not now, mummy”.
I watched her not-so-newborn chest heave up and down with every breath and her lips curve into a sudden smile, glimpses of some sweet secret her dream-time perhaps bestows. I wanted to put my hand over her raggedy doll frame and draw her close enough to inhale her sweet scent, feel her baby-soft cheeks on my lips, to drink in that blissful bursting-with-love moment that every parent of a young child feels occasionally.
But I couldn’t move for fear of waking her.
Oh, my sleeping husband
Beside her, my husband lay asleep, despite having had a full night’s uninterrupted sleep – a fact that in my sleep-craving moments I sometimes resented.
His arms were splayed out in front of his torso and I remembered the nights when, half-asleep, he heard the baby scream and instinctively reached out to pat the pillow like the hundreds of times he’s patted the little girl in his arms, or rocked her when she was a perpetually-wailing colicky newborn.
I remember him helping me when I moved the furniture (again!) in one of my crazy nesting moments that never stop even after her birth – and he lay down on the floor on the parklon mat to check out what it would look like from her point of view.
I thought he was looking for cobwebs, loose wires or too bright lights that might disturb an infant on the floor, instead he reached out to a soft toy on the low shelf behind and turned it upside down, “so that she can see its face when she looks up”.
I remember discovering biscuits in my work bag that he put there, knowing my ravenous pregnancy hunger would wreck havoc during a traffic jam.
I remember him helping me wash and dry the daintiest baby clothes weeks before the due date and trying to fold them without ending up with awkward shapes, then picking out a special outfit for us to bring her home from hospital in.
I remembered the man who never uttered a word of complaint through a year of excruciating rehabilitation after undergoing brain surgery. A man so economical with words and understated with feelings that his description of having a blood vessel rupture in his brain was, “I don’t feel good. I’m sick.”
I wanted to hug him and remind him how far we have come – three years ago, he could not feed himself, walk steadily, or see well enough to drive. Today, we are married with a child.
I wanted to tell him that we should not get caught up in the drudgery, inconveniences, and messiness of parenting a young child. That we should not take for granted that we have survived his near-death and recovery, by the grace of God. That we should not cease to be amazed and grateful that we have what we have today.
But instead, I lay there and watched the clock hand ticking, wondering if he would wake up in time for dinner with his parents.
Oh, my sleeping parents
In the guest room, my parents were asleep, tired from the exhilaration of the past week. They had come to visit us and see the granddaughter they had not seen for the past three months – who is suddenly able to sit up and eat solids now. Her infectious giggles and unsteady gait never failed to amuse them, they were besotted with their first grandchild.
Their faces would light up every time she smiled or cooed at them. Then their eager faces would dim if I would speak a harsh word or make a sigh of dissatisfaction. After living away from home for over a decade, it was hard to readjust to each other’s idiosyncracies.
The over-eager advice of first time grandparents is not always easy on the ears. Sometimes I cringe and bite my tongue when mother makes annoying running commentary or gives endless solutions to problems she hasn’t yet analysed.
But some moments are pure gold, like the time my dad decided the best way to play with his granddaughter while shopping in Ikea was to sit down on the escalator while carrying her, leaving an indelible memory that none of us would forget. Or the moment when I carried baby into the room and he said, when you were this high (holds his hand out to the bed height), you used to come into the room and tell me who bullied you, what you saw, everything.
I reflected that this is probably one of the more enjoyable stages in life, where one’s offspring is at the prime age of growth, and one’s parents have not yet reached physical decline. One distant day when the kids are on the cusp of teenage angst, and the parents are in the throes of aged senility, we will look back fondly at the madness of this time.
So this is the decade where perfection is attainable – when one is of use to our small dependent children and not-yet-dependent parents. Although we are too busy and tired to enjoy the moment fully sometimes, but I’m sure when we look back in the years to come, we will only remember the good things.
This afternoon I experienced a moment of pure perfection, and I savored it.