between the crib rails.

Everett-65 I can’t remember when he started kissing us between the crib rails. My first memory of that is tucked somewhere in between winter and spring of this past year. We finished our bedtime routine of teeth brushing and book reading and dropped him into the crib as usual. He sat up on his knees, pressed his face against the crib rails, and said, “pup?” The kid can say “truck” and “flower” and “cracker” clear as day, but a handful of words require their own Everett-translation, “pup” (kiss) being one of them.

Never the type to turn down kisses, Brett and I knelt down on the floor and brought our faces to meet his. His breath smelled faintly of Thomas the train toothpaste.

After that first night, kissing between the crib rails became part of the regular bedtime routine.

Every night we sit on the floor and yell, “Give us our pups!!” as Everett crawls back and forth in the crib giggling.

“Momma pup?” he says, as I take my turn.

“Daddy pup?” he says, as Brett takes his.

Sometimes he sticks his face in between every space from left to right, all seventeen of them, and we oblige. Back and forth, he presses his face against the cold rails, tiny nose and open mouth barely squeezing through. Sometimes I kiss his mouth, sometimes I kiss his nose. He’s not really picky about where I kiss, so long as my face meets his.

Sometimes he wants us to kiss everything in his crib. He holds up Elmo, and his Curious George doll, his disgusting blue blanket that he carries all over the house.

“Elmo pup?”

“George pup?”

“Gigi (blanket) pup?”

We kiss all of it, everything, every time between the crib rails. Pups for everyone.

***

We bought the toddler bed off Craigslist the same weekend we moved into our new house. A lady was selling it for $80, mattress included, and said it had only been slept on a handful of times. I believed her.

The bed looks good in his big boy room, there is no denying that. Every other room in this house still needs to be put together, but his room has art on the walls and twinkle lights on the teepee and a bright new duvet comforter from IKEA carefully tucked into the sides of the bed.

The bed. The bed where he will soon be sleeping.

Everyone keeps telling me you should keep a toddler in their crib as long as possible. That, so long as they’re not climbing out of it, baby jail is the best thing since sliced bread. And while I believe them, because containment is wonderful when dealing with toddlers who don’t always nap very long, I find myself rattling off Our Plan rather defensively.

We are having a baby in eight weeks! The crib is in the baby’s room! I can't sleep train two kids at once! This is all part of the Big Brother Transition!

But the truth is: that bed has been set up for weeks and Everett is still sleeping in his crib because I am not ready to give up being kissed between the crib rails.

Forget Everett. Forget Brett. Forget the baby books and mommy blogs and stranger advice.

I am not ready.

I am not ready for this. I am not ready for two kids. I am not ready for my baby to not be a baby anymore, even though I know he isn’t one. I am not ready to have one child in a toddler bed and one child in a crib. I am not ready to let go of this routine, of his toddler breath and slobbery mouth meeting mine in between the crib rails. It feels like the last baby part of him, and I am clinging to it with closed fists like a kid holding a helium balloon in the wind.

Tonight is Everett's last night sleeping in his crib. Tomorrow we plan to start sleep training in his big boy bed, taking advantage of the three-day weekend. I'm anxious, worried for him and what he will think, concerned he might be scared. I'm worried it will take four hours to get him to fall asleep and that Brett and I will kill each other in the process. I'm worried he won't nap well. Let's be real: I'm mostly worried he won't nap well.

But what I'm feeling the most is simply bittersweet.

So tonight, with eight weeks to go before we become a family of four, in this precious time of transition and in-between, I am going to relish every last ounce of those kisses between the crib rails. I'll drag it out for thirty minutes if I have to.

Pups for everyone.