My oldest was three months shy of turning 2 when my daughter was born. For almost two years of his life, I am pretty sure we both felt like we were the only two people in the world. It was rare he had a sitter; I hardly ever left his side. He says he remembers those days despite how young he was. He claims the day his sister was born ruined him, and when a baby brother arrived for him a year after that, he started asking me when we were going to go back to it being “just us.”
My mother once told me when you bring a new sibling home, your children can feel the way you would if your partner brought home a new lover to live in your house alongside you. While I thought this was a little over the top, I believe this is how my son was feeling.
I remember the look he gave me one summer day while I was nursing his sister while I had another one cooking in my belly. He was standing at the window, his back to me, he turned to face me, his body didn’t move he just turned his head to look at me. His lips were turned down slightly. He was wearing a baseball hat and tiny red Converse high tops. I met his gaze and smiled, expecting him to run over to us and let me kiss the smooth top of his head. He didn’t run over. He did not smile back. He turned back around and stared out the window some more — something I had never seen him do.
I realize how dramatic this sounds, but it stabbed me in the gut. I longed to reach out for him at that very moment but decided to wait until his sister was finished feeding, so I could put her down.
After I did, we sat in our big leather recliner together, and I read him a board book. It was 9 a.m. and the sun was flooding through the windows, right in his eyes. I saw him squinting, but he didn’t want to get up.
“Just us, Mama.”
Maybe he thought if we had to get up and move, our moment would be over and he didn’t want to risk it.
He was so happy in that moment enjoying his “just us” time. I was too.
After his brother was born the “just us” time got to be less and less. Life was chaotic, and he didn’t quite understand why it was so hard for me to make time for just the two of us. When you hardly get time alone in the bathroom, making time to get away with only one child is next to impossible.
Every once in a while we could squeeze it in, but most of the time I was too tired to venture out of the house after my husband came home. I was in my pajamas at 4 p.m. most evenings, ready to eat dinner put the kids to bed, and call it a night.
Through the years, he has always mentioned how much he likes time alone with just me. If it has been a while, he will drop the hint that it is time.
“I know,” I tell him, “I love it too, Addison.” I want him to know I won’t forget.
And now he is older, and it’s easier for me to make time for just us because my kids aren’t as dependent on me. I have more time and more energy these days, but it’s now him who has a hard time finding time for me. He is very busy in his 13 -year-old world, just as he should be. The irony is I am the one who is craving “just us” time now. I am the one standing by the window trying hard not to frown as I watch him leave to seek out his next adventure. I am the one who doesn’t care if the sun is in my eyes so long as I get to be next to him.
This boy who I am watching grow into a man, the same one who used to reach out for my hand and try to steal me all to himself, ducks away when I try to kiss or hug him these days.
But when he does have time for me, when there is nothing waiting for him that is more exciting than his old mom (these times are few and far between), we are able to really enjoy each other. And although he acts cool, he still says it, “Mom, I really like it when it is just us.”
And I respond with, “Yes me too, just us.”
But he will have no idea just how much I do enjoy it until he has a child of his own who starts to pull away a little bit at a time. It won’t be until then that he understands how important “just us” time becomes for a parent. A true, priceless gift. Just us.