"Mommy, hold you." I hear it no less than 100 times a day, sometimes even while I am holding him. It comes in varying degrees of pleasantness from the bed-headed mumble that makes me want to sweep him up and never ever put him down, to the fussy whine that's like nails on a chalkboard. He requests that I hold him while I drive, pee, even sleep. It is near constant and equal parts sweet and suffocating.
When I feel spread extra thin it doesn't seem to matter how many times I tell myself that it's temporary, or that I'll miss it when it stops, or how lucky I am to have a sweet little toddler who loves me so. I still have to resist the urge to scream. I have to fight the desire to leave my body, letting it become the giant human-sized lovey my son needs and just let my mind get a little breathing room, some fresh air.
If you can, I encourage you to give this approach a try, I admit it may not sound appealing, but it just might get you to bedtime.
In those moments the thing that usually works is also the least obvious. I must try to be present. Smell his sweet little head, try to get him to flash that heart-melting smile, hug him tight. It helps to focus on the now instead of pining for the next step. It helps to stop fighting it, to give in, to hug back, to repeat his name as many times as he says mine like a soothing little mantra. Because all those things I tell myself are true, it's just hard to feel them when you're looking for an exit. If you can, I encourage you to give this approach a try, I admit it may not sound appealing, but it just might get you to bedtime.
Of course, it also helps to take that exit when you can. Take a nice long walk alone. Pour yourself a big glass of wine and hide in the bathtub. Ask for help so that you can get a little bit of your own space. And don't for one second feel guilty for needing it. Having a super clingy toddler can be a bit like walking around covered in leeches. You need to refuel so that you can get back in there without having a breakdown.
And let's be real, breakdowns are okay too. Sometimes a good cry or a cathartic venting session can prove just as effective as alone time. As much as it is an honor, it is also very taxing to be somebody's whole world. Go ahead, do a little whining yourself, you've earned it. And more than anything, know that you are not the only mom out there struggling through this trying time. I'm right there too, raising my glass to you friend, may we someday pee in peace.