This is my nephew, Wyatt. And this is a story about the closest I ever came to knowing what it's like to be a mother.
Due to a sudden and drastic family medical emergency, Wyatt - who was 17 months old at the time - was sent from his home in California out to Utah for 9 weeks.
With about 48 hours notice, Keith and I became temporary guardians to a toddler.
My coworkers at the time rushed to help...giving me a highchair and toys and a carseat...
There was no room for a crib in our 400 sq foot studio apartment so Keith and I shoved a portable playpen in the tiny space between our bed and the wall. We changed his diaper on a towel on the floor. We washed him with hypoallergenic oatmeal-based dog soap when his diaper exploded on the very first day. We had forgotten to buy special baby soap 😞.
When he would wake up from a nap I'd lean against the wall in my living room and cry silently as he sleepily yelled out, "Mom...Mom!?" Because I wasn't his mom. His mom was in California...and she was really sick.
There was one Friday night when I would have normally been out with friends, but I was sitting on the floor in my bathroom watching him splash around in the tub.
He was like this tiny tornado that came through my life out of nowhere...my apartment was a mess...there was yogurt all over my shirt...he puked apple juice all over my car a few hours prior...I'd barely slept....everything was in shambles.
But then he wrapped his chubby fingers around the edge of the tub and peered out at me with soap in his hair and water droplets on his nose, and everything stopped. And in that moment, it was like being in the eye of a storm with this amazing little thing...and I think I understood.
You see, for many reasons, motherhood isn't in the cards for me. But I'll remember that little boy in the bathtub for the rest of my life.
Wyatt is almost 4 now. He doesn't remember anything about the chaos he rained down on us that winter. He doesn't know that he gave me a chance to understand something I would never have otherwise.
One day, when he's old enough, I'll thank him. And then I'll tell him that I washed him with dog soap...