One of the best things about Jacob getting older is getting back some real, genuine affection. When you first have a baby, it's all about giving. You give, give, give, with very little in return. Don't get me wrong, the random little smiles and sweet baby sounds are awesome. And nothing beats the sight of a peacefully sleeping baby. Every little snuggle and every little milestone make parenting worthwhile, but sometimes you really have to look for those moments amidst the exhaustion of caring for a helpless newborn.
As babies get older, you have more fun moments, more smiles, and more milestones to enjoy, but I'd still argue that a true connection with your baby is tough to come by. Obviously you're their parent, and they know that. Just try handing your baby off to a stranger, or even getting them to talk to one, and you'll know that for sure. They might give a smile, but the second they think you're leaving them there, all bets are off. But until you have a real means to communicate with your baby, to know what they want, what they're thinking about, etc., sometimes it's hard to really feel like you know them. You love them and know every other intimate detail about them, but their brain remains a mystery. That's why signing was a huge help and why I enjoyed it when Jacob could finally crawl and get the toys he wanted. Those two things alone provided a lot of insight into Jacob's mind.
We always enjoyed it when Jacob could snuggle into one of us and fall asleep, or when he'd suddenly snap out of his cranky zone when he saw us. At least there were signs that he knew exactly who we were and that we were a good thing in his little world. But only in the last few months or so has he started to show true affection--getting excited when he sees us, giving real kisses, and voluntarily hugging. And really, that is the best. There's nothing quite like an excited "Mama!" when I walk in the door, and I love when we're playing on the floor and he randomly jumps on me and wraps his arms around my neck in a big hug. It's like a big "thank you" for a fun play time. Sometimes when he gives hugs, he pats your back, which is the cutest thing ever. Once in a while he gives me unsolicited kisses when my cheek is anywhere close to his face, and although a lot of them tend to be air kisses or random open mouth ones (even though he knows how to pucker and most of the time does), it's so sweet. And sometimes he just gives these sweet little touches...where he'll rub my cheek or my arm, or will lay his head down in my lap. Awesome. I even love when I pick him up and he completely holds on to me--full body style with his arms around my neck, legs wrapped around, head on my shoulder, and absolutely no intention of letting go. It's one of those moments that makes you feel needed.
This weekend his sleep schedule was all off. Some (most?) of it was my fault. Thanksgiving caused his napping schedule to be off thanks to sleeping in the car and too much going on during the afternoon. He woke up early most mornings this weekend, and his napping was a disaster. An hour here, 45 minutes there, a couple late afternoon naps that threw off bedtime, a couple late nights....what a mess! He was fighting sleep the whole time, and to make matters worse, he's got his cough back. It's not as bad as it was last year, but it's back nonetheless. Ugh. That has been waking him up a bit (or at least disturbing his sleep...he seems to sleep through it but I can't imagine it's restful), and I think just being off his schedule did the rest of the damage. We spent much of yesterday afternoon visiting with some friends and watching the Bills game, and Jacob didn't nap while we were there. He was in a decent mood most of the time (whew!), and he fell asleep pretty much the second the car pulled out of the parking lot. We managed to transfer him into his crib successfully when we got home. However, about a half hour later he was screaming bloody murder. I went in to grab him and I brought him out into the living room. He stopped fussing when I sat with him on the couch and he could watch football, and at some point shortly thereafter his eyes began to shut. He ended up sleeping on me for about an hour, and it was really nice. It happens so rarely these days, and I really enjoyed it. Naps like that are so rare these days, but I know both Craig and I have been dreaming of lazy weekend afternoons where we all curl up on the couch and nap together. When I have nothing better to do (and even if I do!), there's nothing I'd rather do than play Jacob's pillow for an hour or so.
Long story short, it's just nice to see Jacob at the point where he realizes just how special his mommy-daddy time is. He's been a little attached in the mornings at daycare drop-off and apparently stands at the door saying "Mama" for the last half hour he's there, so I feel a little guilty for that, but it's nice to know that he knows the difference and wants to spend time with us. I keep hoping that his desire to spend time with us will make him a happier boy when he can, and I hope it doesn't backfire down the line and make him upset that he doesn't get more time with us.
Well, time to go get some of those hugs and kisses...can't wait :)