Children grow up. I get that. In fact, watching them grow up is supposed to be part of the joy of parenthood. They grow up, become productive members of society (thanks to our brilliant parenting), and then have lots of beautiful grandchildren that love and adore us. That's the deal.
So then why do I find myself mourning my children's growing older? My oldest is not yet three and I feel like I've lost my baby in him. Five years from now, hell, one year from now, I'll look back at pictures of him today and think, "Aah, he was just a baby," and yet today I am looking at him and thinking, "My baby is gone."
A couple of weeks ago, Pants fell down while running and scraped his hands and knee. He was with his dad and apparently took the fall like a man, barely crying and then just walked it off. When they walked in the door, Al said, "Pants, show Mom your ouches and tell her you need some medicine." I don't know if it was the sight of me (Mom the Great Comforter), the mention of medicine, or both, but he just crumbled. Real, genuine tears poured as he began to tell me what happened. Forget that taking it like a man crap. He wanted his mom.
After cleaning him up, he was still in that hiccupy state, so I took him to the glider and rocked him to settle him down. As it was almost time for bed, he went ahead and fell asleep shortly after we began rocking. All that crying just wiped him out, not to mention all the fun he had had running out with his dad. Somehow, the fates were smiling on us, and Cheeks was being quiet with Al, so I just kept rocking Pants long after he fell asleep.
I was savoring the weight of him on my lap, the hot, sweaty forehead on my shoulder, the tear-stained cheeks facing my neck. His face was of utter peace, as only that of mother-comfort can bring. At that moment, in that face, I saw my baby. I saw my baby as he was at six months old, rocking his chubby body, heavy with sleep, in his tiny bedroom in New Orleans, looking through the security bars into our dark backyard and wondering if I would ever sleep again. A new mother with a lifetime of babyhood ahead of me, or so it seemed.
Recognizing my baby in this toddler in my arms the other night broke down a little wall in my heart and I just wept. I'd like to say I cried, but it was more than that. It was deeper than that. I felt like I was being granted a moment to see into the past, to remember, no, feel what it was like when he was a baby again. A baby that is gone now, replaced by this wonderful little boy who daily astounds me with his capacity for love and compassion. Blessings upon blessings.
It's so complex, this being a mom thing.
So why do we mourn our babies growing up? It's a good thing. It's what we want for them. And yet.
I remember when I was preparing to leave for college and I had this big sort of argument with my mom. It wasn't even an argument. It was bizarre. We were standing in the family room, talking about my plans, and somehow my mom started crying. I don't remember the details of the discussion, but I remember that she pointed, near sobbing, at a picture of me on the wall at around age 8, and said, "I won't ever have that baby again. She's gone! I can't ever have her back." It was like she was accusing me of something, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what. All I knew was that, in that moment, she seemed devastated and there was nothing I could do.
Now I understand. If only just a sliver of understanding, at this point in my motherhood.
It's so complex.
So, we need a little bit of humor in this post: That night, after my sob fest over Pants growing up, I finished reading Looking for Mary, as I blogged about earlier. I went to sleep thinking that I should try to be more like Mary. Talk about complex; the woman had to endure such sorrows in her life, raising a son that was to be her savior, reconciling Him as her Son but also her God (seriously, I'm having trouble accepting the fact that my son may grow up to someday be not just my son, but also my dentist, let alone my God), later to be all but left behind as He came to consider His Church as His true family, then you have that whole crucifixion thing-- it's a mess. I mean, give a woman a break. Yet she was infinitely compassionate, loving, accepting, strong, and patient. Of course, I could possibly be more patient if I thought I might be crowned Queen of Heaven for doing so. Nevertheless. I should probably settle for Queen of My Home.
So, yeah, back to that humor bit (you were probably wondering): I go to sleep thinking I should try to be more like Mary, only to wake the next morning to discover that my son has become more like Jesus:
Stigmata and all.
By the way, Cheeks got hurt today, too. He fell off of our bed. Almost three feet onto the bare floor, directly onto his head. And all I could think was, "God, all I want in this world is to see my baby grow up." That was my first reaction. That was my true heart's desire, when faced with the fear of his being hurt. It is truly complex being a parent.
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. --Elizabeth Stone