I can still hear him – the sobbing, the sputtering, the gasping for breath. It was his bedtime. And I needed a break. And she told me to do it. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes passed. Still sobbing, still sputtering, still gasping.
Angry thoughts paced through my mind: “She told me he would stop within ten minutes,” “He is trying to manipulate me,” “Why won’t he just sleep!,” “I need me-time!” And then it occured to me that maybe he had a need that I was willing to meet. “Maybe he dropped his pacifier!”
Slamming my book shut, I rose from the couch and climbed the stairs. Opening the door, I found him exactly as I had left him – clinging to the rail of the crib, pacifier dangling in hand. Almost exactly. Now, however, his face was mottled crimson, his cheeks glistened with tears, his upper lip was covered in snot, and his little body trembled.
I so badly wish I could say that I was moved by seeing the raw reality of his desperate attempts to reach out to me in the only way his 11-month-old self knew how. That I had compassion for him. But I wasn’t. I didn’t.
Turning from him, I walked out, shutting the door behind me.
When his mom returned that night she asked nervously, “Did he give you too much trouble at bedtime?” It was late, and I was prideful. “Oh no. Not at all!” I answered. At the time, I suppose my thought process went something like this: Why burden her with the gory details of my misery. MY misery! But in looking back, had I been honest with myself, I would have recognized that I was too arrogant to admit to either of us that I felt affronted by a baby. A baby.
Textbooks in hand, I walked out to my car. I was so relieved to be heading home. Needing to vent, I dialed my mom.
“Mom, that little baby was so clingy. Yes, it was hard hearing him cry, but babies need to know that their crying does not get a reaction out of us. They need to know who is in charge. How else will they learn to be independent? My babies will learn to be independent.”
I really said that. And I believed it.
No matter the weight of my regret, I cannot go back in time and answer his pleas for company, for comfort, for help. All I can do is cling to God’s forgiveness, to His grace.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.