Thursday, April 16, 2009

Can I borrow your shield?

Here's the deal: I had to post something to get rid of the last post. I don't like to be reminded of "the incident". In fact, for a couple of days I tried to avoid that part of my house altogether, as even looking at that spot on the floor made me feel a little sick to my stomach. Kind of like when my dog saw some avocados ripening on the windowsill and was so traumatized that it was several days before he could bring himself to look out the window again.

Yeah, exactly like that.

Look, I know that falling off the bed is small potatoes compared to the things Lion and I are likely to encounter in his lifetime (suggestion for the next Dr. Seuss: Oh, The Places You and Your Mother Will Go! a.k.a. The Emergency Room, The Bully's House, The Principal's Office, and The Psychotherapist). I know I can't prevent every bad thing, nor would that be good for him, but still- sometimes it feels like motherhood requires a natural armor that I have yet to develop.

I was dropping Lion off at daycare a couple of weeks ago, and sat down on a small bench just outside of the infant room so I could remove my shoes. Lion, perched on my knee, was watching some bigger kids across the way with a look of utter fascination on his face. A couple of boys noticed him and moved closer, pointing their little toys at him.

"Hey, BABY," said one boy.

"Yeah!" said the other, with disdain. "He's just a BABY."

Little Lion smiled uncertainly, then looked up at me. My arm was wrapped around him, my hand on his soft, round belly.

"We don't play with BABIES," said the first boy.

I know it's completely normal for kids that age to want to separate themselves from babyhood. I get it. But a little wave of anger surged up in my chest.

"You should be nice to everyone, even babies," I told them, getting up. "Especially babies. They look up to you."

The boys blinked at me.

You little assholes, I finished, silently.

Since having Lion, I find myself thinking more about my own mother, wondering what she experienced after I, her firstborn, arrived. There are a few short entries in my own recently unearthed baby book, which I greedily devoured within seconds. I wish there were more. And so every so often I write a letter to Lion in which I tell him how he' s changed, the milestones he's reached, and what it's like to be his mother. I'll give them to him someday, if he's interested.

This is from a letter I wrote when he was around three months old:

At home you slept in your bassinet, right next to our bed. I woke up any time you stirred, and kept a nightlight plugged in so I could always see that your chest was rising and falling. Even when I was exhausted, I felt it was a privilege to care for you. I felt lucky. I thought of my own mother, and wondered how I could have lived so long without understanding the powerful love she had for me. A couple days after your birth I was holding you as tears slid down my cheeks. “What if something happens to him?” I wept. “I couldn’t bear it.” My mother stroked my cheek and said, “You never stop worrying about your babies, even when they grow up and have babies of their own.”

It's a wonderful, terrifying life sentence, this motherhood business. So many women tried to tell me, but I just didn't understand until he was here.



Blogger BabelBabe said...

there's a famous quote about how having children is like having your heart walk around outside your chest. And I think of that quote, no joke, just about every day.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Roxanne said...

I don't think you *can* understand until it happens to you. I think it is humanly impossible.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Caffeinated Librarian said...

Damn woman, you need to stop making me cry when I read you.

But it was a good cry. The kind that makes you want to go and hug your mom...

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Frema said...

My mom wrote journals for me and my siblings to document our lives and "talk" to us. She didn't write in them all the time, and it's not even half-way full, but she gave my book to me when I went on a retreat in high school, and I knew I would want to do the same for my babies. I love having a space where I can talk to them just as they are right now, knowing someday they'll understand.

10:38 PM  

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