“You’re the best mommy,” my still officially five year-old son for ten more hours and two minutes, says as I sit with him in his bed at night. Because of the L word that cannot be mentioned, he is hugging around my waist while I am bent up against his head board, my hair wrapped in a tight mint-sprayed bun.
We are clear, I think. I mean, I’m pretty sure. Once you get L, you might never feel confident or clean again. I have been officially cleared twice by professionals, have treated myself none-the-less and combed out my hair every night, pulling so much that soon, I will have no hair left to worry about. Still, I feel them crawling on me and scratch at my head like a crazy person, which obviously, I am.
I have spent the week torturing my entire family. Checking and combing, freaking out when one sib’s head interferes with another sib’s personal head space, yelling for head checks, denying play dates. A few days ago when my 8 year-old went to bed early, I pulled my fine tooth comb through his hair in the dark at least five times before he woke and yelled at me.The casual hug is a thing of the past. Now my head tilts awkwardly so as not to touch anyone else’s hair. Snuggling in bed is also off limits. Until tonight, I wouldn’t even have sat in his bed. But tonight is the last night he will be five, and after days of begging me to snuggle, I can deny him no longer.
It’s been a difficult week for many reasons and now thinking that I am holding on to the last moments of my baby being five, I am heavy with the thickness of my emotion. I could fall over right now and cry myself to sleep. But of course, I can’t, because then our heads might touch.
My five – for nine more hours and fifty seven minutes – year-old is my youngest, but he really is no longer a baby. He’s now strong and agile, joining his brothers in school and on the field; a mischievous charmer, filled with sass and silliness.
Yet, he still randomly misuses bigger words, saying things like, ‘Happy university’ instead of anniversary, or telling me to use the ‘constructions’ to put something together. He still tells me secrets from his ear to mine, basically making it impossible to hear his little whispers. And he insists on cuddling with me in bed. My 8 year-old and 11 year-old do as well, but not with the same need as my 5 year-old, who will not stop calling until he has his due.
At this moment, his little upturned nose and the full curve of his cheek make him look almost cherubic in profile, so close to a baby. His hair is still damp from his shower, the unstoppable waves pressed against me. If I move just a little, he will hug me tighter, afraid that it is time for me to go. But I’m in no hurry tonight, because there are only nine hours and fifty-two minutes left of my baby being five, and we’re going to hug till he snores.
“Tomorrow’s my birthday.” He announces, as if we haven’t been counting off the days for months.
“I know.” In nine hours and fifty minutes.
“I can’t wait.” He says and snuggles closer.
“You’re the best mommy,” He repeats softly, drifting off.
“You’re the best baby.” I whisper.
And then I can’t take it anymore. Imaginary lice be damned, I lean down and kiss him on the head, pulling him to me.
I love this boy. And that’s the only L word that matters.