Every night we put Carter to bed early so he has enough sleep to make it through the next day. With the summer comes longer-lit days, which means his room is much brighter at bedtime than it is during winter.

For this reason, he wakes up more often and calls out for us. Asking us to come and get him, tugging at our heart strings by saying “mama” and “dada.”

Usually we have a rule that we wait five minutes so he can fall back asleep, but sometimes he wakes up too much and we have to intervene.

Our intervention, as I guess I’m going to call it, usually entails getting him out of bed and rocking him in a rocking chair.

It is in these moments while rocking him that I have a wonderful feeling. It is euphoric, like I have a purpose in life larger than for my own personal agenda. I think this feeling is something you get when you become a parent.

Even though I should put him back to sleep once he calms down, I find myself wanting to hold him, wanting to keep him in my arms for longer than I should.

There is just something about being hugged unconditionally by your child that just lights up your day. It makes everything that went wrong that day better.

Suddenly I realize one day it won’t be this easy. One day I won’t be able to protect him by holding him or directing him to something new. One day he is going to be older and make his own decisions, ones I can’t always help him with.

Unfortunately I know one day he won’t want to snuggle anymore. One day he may not even want me in his room or want my advice or protection.

As I sat there holding him, this idea scared me. I like to think this idea is what drives me to be the dad I want to be. This is why I want to teach him how to be a responsible adult so that he can learn how to protect himself because I won’t always be able to protect him.

This getting older business is scary stuff for us parents. I know he will probably drink before he is 21 because most kids do. I know he will probably get in a car crash after he gets his first license. I know he will do stupid things that I won’t be able to protect him from.

I also know he will do things that will take him farther away from me like moving away for college and work, marrying someone and having his own children.

To know that I won’t always be able to protect him is hard.

I like to think this is why I let him figure things out as a toddler and yes, even make mistakes. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, but turning to parent books just seems like a confusing mess of “this way is better than that way.”

So I am left with what I think is best as a parent. I hope it is right. I hope he grows up to be a responsible adult, one that can make positive changes in this world.

Eventually he calms down and falls asleep in my arms. He begins to breath heavy like he usually does and becomes dead weight. He’s warm and I want to sit there forever in that moment, but the parent in me told me to let him go. Told me to put him to bed.

So I stood up and put him to bed. He of course cried a sleepy cry and within five minutes was fast asleep again. Safe for another night, one of many more to come.

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