You are exhausted. He won't stop crying today and you would cry too if you had any energy left. He wants milk, a treat, a toy, attention, sleep. He doesn't know what he wants. His cries turn shrill and grate on your nerves until you lash out, yell, beg him to please just STOP. Nap time comes and while he sleeps you sit outside, overwhelmed with guilt and fatigue and lingering frustration, soaking up the silence like sunshine.
You miss having a life that belongs to you. Getting dressed in real clothes, fixing your hair, feeling attractive. Being good at something besides cleaning or cooking or rocking a baby to sleep. Oh God, you miss sleep. Solid, uninterrupted sleep. You miss being able to leave the house alone, eat at a restaurant without making a scene. You miss your independence.
He wakes up, cheerful, his cheeks flushed with sleep. He smiles, hugs you, asks to watch a movie. You try to start one and go take a shower but he whines for you to stay with him. Later your husband comes home, takes over, tells you to get out of the house for a while. Treat yourself. Take a break. Little man screams and rages, reaches for you in desperation. "Mama will be right back." You slip out into the night, turn the radio up, drive aimlessly.
He is old enough to do the dishes now. He even takes out the trash sometimes. He stopped ordering off the kids menu months ago. You argue about skinny jeans and PG-13 movies and when he'll get a phone. He is almost as tall as you and rarely hugs you anymore. He's never upset to see you go. He has your sense of humor but doesn't need your help. He needs deodorant, face wash, freedom. You don't know what to do with yourself sometimes.
You look at him, trying to remember what it was like when he was a baby, but time has faded the years. You barely remember his flushed cheeks and sleepy smile, or the way he grasped your shoulders when anyone tried to take him from you. He doesn't remember smashing a jar of spaghetti sauce and how you dragged him to his crib and set him there to thrash and scream while you cleaned it off the kitchen floor, telling the universe, "I can't do this. I can't do this anymore."
That's the thing about time. Memories start out as grooves on a stone, easily seen and felt. Then the years smooth them over until you can barely make them out. They're all fragile. The good, the bad, they all crumble away. And then they're gone.