The Last Snuggle

My son turns 10 this month. A decade of days. Next year, he will no longer hold up two hands to show his age. In an equal amount of time, he will be almost old enough to legally buy a drink.

When did that happen?

As the saying goes, “The days are slow, but the years, they are fast.”

Fast and frustrating. Fast and fun. Fast and fleeting.

In the day-to-day chaos of life, of doing the best we can as parents, workers, spouses and friends, it is too easy to let the kid-stuff irritate us: forts taking over the living room. Legos clogging up the tub. Favorite dolls with accidental haircuts. Endless laundry. Nightmares, terrible cartoons, untouched dinners, repeated questions, ripped books, outgrown sneakers, spilled juice, unbrushed teeth and broken toys.

We snap, we scream, we sigh.

And yet…

There will be a time when the Legos, forts, dolls and even laundry will be traded away for something older, something that doesn’t involve us. Things that don’t need us. And in that backwards glance we see that we miss—and crave—those chaotic times. Because in all of that stuff that drives us to our breaking point, there is an unplanned yet inevitable end-point.

Those few extra pages of a book, those “good” pillows for the fort, those ceaseless “whys?” Those things that, in the moment, feel like they stole time from cleaning, laundry, opening the wine and Instagram will eventually disappear. And they don’t come back.

I cringe at my pattern of rushing through “snuggle time” when my son would roll over and just say, “snuggle,” in those moments before sleep took over. How many times I would lie there with the ticker tape of ALL I HAD TO DO, tense and hoping he was asleep so I could get up and go watch Lost or scroll Facebook or order junk on Amazon. How irked when I had finally crept out the door and he would call for “just one more minute,” and I would huff and tell my 4-year-old that “I can’t because I have so much stuff to do.”

As the years passed, he would still ask and it was 50/50 on how I would answer.

Then recently, he stopped asking.

I would tuck him in and read, then he would roll over and stay silent.

Snuggle time was over.

I wish I had kept better track. When was the last time he asked? When was the last time I could inhale the back of his sweet, warm head as he drifted? When was the last snuggle?

I hated myself deeply in that gut-wrenching realization. I had said “no” to my baby, who only wanted a few more seconds to know he was safe and loved. I had put meaningless crap ahead of the one thing that was most important.

Those slow days had tricked me into believing they would stay slow forever.

Ten years of slow days have passed at the speed of light.

Last night, after reading, I asked him if I could stay and snuggle with him.

I wrapped my arms around his familiar shape and squeezed.

Several minutes passed and his breathing deepened. I tiptoed into the hall and stopped.

“Momma? One more minute?”

“Yes, buddy. As many minutes as you want.”

Maggie Knowles writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.

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