Are You Three Today, Ursa Major? My Lord…Where Does the Time Go?

Photo: Ursa Major during his first week of life…He was born with a full head of hair. And he had a cleft chin, which was a total surprise. I’m not going to lie, we were EXTREMELY surprised about how light his skin color was. He’s come a long way, but it is still nice to visit these pictures from the early days.


Ursa Major woke me up this morning at around 5:20. He has been having nightmares lately, and this was his second wake-up of the night. The Husband had done the first shift, so it was my turn. And, well, I was happy to do it.

Three years ago today, he’d woken me up at around the same time. I was in Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in a pretty cold room, scared and anxious for totally different reasons. My first good contractions had just rocked through my body, and while I’d been waiting for them for two days, I was absolutely not prepared for what I was experiencing. Kinda like what Ursa Major experienced this morning: Waking up in a dark room, hearing the funny noises of the radiator, his snoring brother offering him no support… So just as I had screamed for the epidural (that I swore that I wouldn’t take…I was such a new mom), Ursa Major opened the door of the nursery and yelled “out!” in our general direction. (Why did we put the crib so close to the door? This was not a good idea.)

So I got up and went to the nursery and picked up my heavy, tall 3 year-old and cradled him in the rocking chair we bought right before he was born. He was gripping his “Star Turtle” (one of those dolls that lights up and projects stars on the ceiling) and his favorite My Pal Scout, which made it all the more difficult to handle him. He was grateful, though, putting his head on my chest just as he did that very first moment he’d emerged into the world. He was shaking then and now, obviously a little scared from the nightmare. “Are you ok?” I asked him. “Yeah,” he replied timidly. “Did you have a bad dream?” “Yeah,” he replied. I’m not so sure that this is the case. I think he has been waking up and realizing that this place and its noises aren’t super familiar yet, so then he gets himself scared and calls for us. But whatever, he can’t express that.

“You don’t have to be scared, baby. You are safe here. I’m here and Daddy is here and [Ursa Minor] is here. And we’re in our house. You are always safe here.” I took just as much comfort in these words as he did. What Ursa Major didn’t (and couldn’t) know is that I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, too, scared by some new sound. The radiators do make a lot of noise at night, and I haven’t been able to determine what’s a regular sound and what’s a bad sound. I want to take comfort in knowing that I’m in the suburbs, that this is a good community…but I watch the news too much. Bad things happen in the suburbs, too.

He took comfort in my words. I continued to rock him and whisper to him. I told him about how much love I feel for this house, and how much love I feel it gives to us too.  “This is a special place,” I told him. “you don’t need to feel scared here.”

He yawned and squeezed me. He whispered that he was ready to go back to bed. I lowered him into the crib and tucked him into his blanket and crept out of the nursery before Ursa Minor could wake up. I think crawled back into bed and smiled before going back to sleep.

I know that I shouldn’t be surprised, but it is unsettling to me that Ursa Major is afraid of the dark. He is a brave little guy–often willing to try something new (usually after watching others do it first). When he commits to something though, he’s all in. His teachers say that he often turns into the leader at school not because he demands attention but because he becomes so involved in something that he’s doing that the other kids want to know what it is and emulate his actions. He seems to have a lot of emotional intelligence: He can tell you how he is feeling, but he is also very good at gauging the mood of the room. Though he isn’t a child who needs a lot of reassurance, I like that he comes to check in on me. I’m getting a lot of “what are you doing?” or “what is that?” during my days right now. Of course, that has turned into some not-s0-great things like “Mommy, is someone being stupid in their car?” when I honk my horn on the way to school. There was also that fun moment yesterday when he said “shit” perfectly in context after dropping his PB&J… opps. Oh, and then there is this one: When frustrated with his brother, he loves to say “Oh, for the love of Gawd!” …Lordy… He’s been paying a little too much attention to me… We both still have a lot to learn. Me, especially.

All babies grow, and so I am not really baffled by the profound transformation that Ursa Major has gone through from newborn to this, his third birthday. Then again, I am surprised about how quickly this time has gone, and what a profound impact he has had on our world. Since his birth, The Husband and I have moved us three times, I’ve started running a playgroup, I’ve made and lost friends, I’ve started locking my hair…we chose a community and purchased a home, we’re become far more invested in local politics and initiatives, and we’re thinking more carefully about how we spend our days. While I sometimes miss our easy days of video games, sleeping in, weekly date nights, and freedom to roam…I kinda don’t miss those days. We were two young people without a lot of purpose. We wasted a lot of time not really DOING anything. Suddenly, we constantly have new goals and objectives, not a moment is wasted, we go to bed exhausted but accomplished….and when we don’t, we feel bad about it. When I look at my son, I see the best reason in the world to be my best self. I appreciate his quiet demand for me to grow.

We’ve left babyhood, and I kinda think we’ve left toddler-hood… welcome to childhood, Ursa Major… and more important, boyhood… My son is no long just like every other typical baby. His own personality, wants, needs, likes and dislikes are fully emerging, and he sees the world through eyes and experiences that are all his own. I know that he is still looking at me for guidance, and the way that I react to the world really matters to him. I’m excited to know that his exploration and experiences will only get larger and bolder from here. Where I spent most of his Terrible Twos focused on buying a house and getting him into school, I hope that I can spend is Threes focusing on cultivating more of his likes and helping him explore the world. I feel like our relationship changed this year and was sometimes strained as he was pushing boundaries and I was dealing with outside stresses. I’d like to refocus, still disciplining him gently, but also bringing more positive warmth back into our relationship.

Today is a great day. There is snow on the ground, my boys are playing with their trains and watching Sid the Science Kid. We’ll celebrate with cake tonight and sing as a family. I’ll tell my son I love him…probably after a temper tantrum (he’s had two already today). I’ll look at a few baby pictures and remember when he was too small to scream at me in frustration. I’ll wonder for a minute if I really want to try to get pregnant one more time…and when he throws something at his brother, I’ll come to a pretty hard “no.” I’ll go to bed and giggle with my husband about how “old” we’ve grown over these last three years… and yes, we’ll both feel good about everything we’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time. And we’ll feel proud of our little boy, who has accomplished so much more along the way, and we’ll feel awed about all of the potential he has and all of the things he’ll do over the next 12 months. And then, maybe, if we’re wise, we’ll have a brief moment of the same sheer terror we felt on that first night in the recovery room at Melrose-Wakefield. Our hearts will jump as we recall of the responsibility we have to do the best we can for him. And maybe…just maybe…if we continue to be optimistic and keep our wits about us, we’ll set that fear aside and renew our resolve. We’ll remember that we’re capable of doing this. We’ve always been. We’ll remember that we’re doing alright. We’ve made mistakes, but we’ve always been triumphant. And then we’ll close our eyes and pray. Thanking God for surviving another year of parenthood, asking Him for the blessing of another happy, healthy, and learning-filled year.

and then, briefly, we’ll sleep. Until he calls for us for reassurance. Because we’re a lot of things…but right now, we’re the people who make the dark less scary.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Miriam Joy says:

    Awww. Ursa Major shares his birthday with Lord Byron, the poet, Balanchine, the choreographer, and… me! Except I’m eighteen today, entering adulthood not childhood. But high five for shared birthdays and times to come. 🙂

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      I didn’t know that Ursa Major was in such awesome company! How super cool! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!! and a big birthday at that!! Congrats! You can vote!! (And pretty much nothing else… lol… I guess you can buy cigarettes? But don’t do that!!!) It’s nice to reach the “age of majority”–like climbing a crazy large hill and feeling the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made it. It really does only get better from here.

      I hope that you celebrated with exuberance!

      1. Miriam Joy says:

        I can do most things over here really. Drink etc – not that I do drink alcohol. Most importantly all those websites I had to set up in my mum’s name I can now put in mine, hooray! 🙂

  2. Lauren says:

    Such a beautiful post. It warmed my heart.

    As much as these birthdays are celebrated for our children, they’re shared with us…the day we became parents for the first time, or again to a new little individual. They’re imprinted on us for life. Having just celebrated my son’s first birthday, and now reading your thoughts, is it safe to bet I will be thinking about the first time I laid eyes on him at every birthday?

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Thank you! 🙂 I firmly believe that these early birthdays should be just as much a celebration of parenthood as they are a celebration of their milestone. This work is HARD, and these first three years of life have been EXHAUSTING. I feel like the baby should get a cake and presents and every party guest should bring mom and dad a bottle of booze!

      It is true, though, these these days are also a time of reflection on the larger picture. I’ll never forget the physical experience of bringing Ursa Major into the world, but I’ll also never forget those first moments of gazing at him in wonder and terror, and he looking up at me with confusion and exhaustion. I’ll never forget how small he was, but also how warm he was in my arms in that chilly hospital room. I’ll never forget bringing him home in 18 degree weather (with a windchill of 10 or something ridiculous) and bundling him and 4 layers, plus the blanket in the carrier AND my husband had warmed the car for a good 20 minutes so that it was as warm as possible….

      And I’ll never forget the first month or two of his life where we used to put his towel in the dryer while we were bathing him so that way it would be warm when we took him out… We were so frantic and silly… and loving. and terrified…

      Those are the things you’ll remember every birthday. And chuckle to yourself on the random days. It’s what makes all of this tolerable in some ways. It’s hard to tap into it when everything is going to pieces…but in the quiet moments when your mind gets a chance to chase the rabbits, these are the things that you find…

  3. Frances says:

    Happy birthday, Ursa Major. Your perspective is heart warming and those boys are so blessed to have you. I needed to hear another mommy talk about night time awakenings, I will adopt you perfect outlook on that!

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Hey now, don’t go changing perspectives on night time waking! This was a one-time-only warm and fuzzy thing, a Birthday Special, as it were! I am usually not a fan, and I USUALLY send my husband to go handle it! 🙂

      So the peptalk is pretty simple: When the toddler wakes up in the middle of the night, kick your partner in the shin and get THEM to go take care of it!

  4. kataqia says:

    This is Irene! And your post reminded me of another beautiful birthday letter to a three-year-old (I started following her after her blog was featured on Freshly Pressed):

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      What a pretty post.. I love this! Thank you for sharing!

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