Saturday, February 26, 2011
I can’t believe my son is almost one year old. Or, I can. This year has been more full, more ripe, more exhausting, and more wonderful than any that have come before, and so, in that sense, it certainly feels like a year’s worth of experiences have passed. But on the other hand, babies grow and change so fast. At times I’ll pause and stare at my son and try to imprint what he is like right now, for I know that in just another month or two, this current stage will seem like a blur. I can’t recall with any hint of precision the subtleties of any stages that have passed, for this day and what my son needs from me right now commands so much of my attention.
So I’ll say it again: I can’t believe my son is almost one year old, because this phrase is somehow grounding, and because I want, through the act of writing, to will myself to sense what this passage of time feels like: in my body, my heart.
I feel the need to have some sort of ritual to mark this passage—less a birthday party full of presents for Cedar, more a private day for me to meditate on his birth, our birth, not to mention the journey me and his father have been on, all we’ve learned, all the challenges we’ve met, and all the joy that this little being brings to our life.
Joy. So much joy. Never a morning where I don’t delight in waking and hearing Cedar’s first naa. And then a chorusing chant: naa, naa, naa. Or else maas, baas and daas. Never a day where I am not moved anew when hearing his giggles, seeing his hands quiver in excitement, or feeling him bury his head in my shoulder when he hasn’t fully woken or when he’s shyly turning away from someone new. I cannot get enough of my son. I miss him when I’ve been away for only a few hours, which, in truth, is about the most that I ever get away.
Cedar. I feel like I can’t write about you from the depths that I want to; everything feels like some generalization, or like something I’ve already written or heard someone else say before. Maybe it would be better if I sat down and wrote you a letter. Talked to you, and by extension, to me, directly. Because you are still an extension of my body. I still feel that. I hold you as you nap, a stomach gurgles, and I’m not sure if it’s yours or mine. I hear you cry and your call pulls straight from my heart. I wear you close to my body and we keep each other warm, move and bend and sway all day in one essential rhythm.
Cedar. Sometimes I wonder if I’m overly protective, if this kind of mothering is somehow wired into my blood. If I keep you too close to me, if I should let you play on the floor more by yourself, or shouldn’t pick you up so much at your slightest provocation. Maybe I should bring you to more playgroups, maybe if you were around other babies more then you would see the way they move and explore and it would encourage you to learn to crawl. But here we are most days, just me and you at home, playing together on the floor, moving through the house and yard, tending to chores and needs: laundry, dishes, plants, mail, food prep, eating, peeing, shitting, putting on jackets and shoes. We’re a unit, and I talk to you all day long, talk to myself, tell you what we’re doing, where we’re going, point out the doggies and birds. Sometimes it’s also nice to be silent, like when we lie on the bed and nurse, staring out the window at the trees or staring into each others eyes. And we do see other people of course: Popo, Grandpa, Grandma, one Auntie or another. And Papa of course, each evening, who walks through the door to your smiling surprise and throws you high in the air.
But for the most part, it’s just you and me, babe. And because of this, no one else knows how to care for you like I do. I can’t help but want to supervise when others are in charge and make sure that you have enough clothes on, that your food or bath water are not too hot, that your creams and lotions have been applied in all the crucial spots, and that you are not left by yourself for too long while adults try to get other things done. Yes, I am an attentive mama. And yes, who knows, maybe if I wasn’t always there ready to pick you up when you are frustrated, or to put a new toy in front of you when you get bored, then maybe you might have learned to move more on your own. Or maybe not. Maybe this is just who you are, and how you are wired to develop. Maybe I need to banish all thoughts of blaming myself for this one. Probably the last thing in the world I need to feel bad about is being too attentive. And yet, I can’t help but wonder if I am too sensitive at times—too sensitive to your every cry.
Now, eleven months after your birth, my body still tenses when I hear you cry out at night, and my heart still yearns for you with a hint of anxiety as I make my way back to you after a few-hour break. Not as much as in the beginning of course, not like those early months where my body was constantly poised, on alert, ready to spring out of the chair to your side. I have changed, as have you. You’re becoming more your own person every day, less a little ball of helpless dependency. You now survive on more than just mama’s milk. And you can protest, request, make yourself known with gestures and sounds and silliness. I love your silliness. I love our spontaneous jokes that emerge out of mama doing something random that you find hilarious, like tearing off a piece of beef jerky with my teeth, then doing it over and over with more ferocity to hear you laugh in hysterics. I love discovering what excites you, intrigues you, makes your eyes widen in surprise.
Yet beneath these small delights, our daily routine, and sometimes, yes, tedium, there is an undercurrent. A tugging place where my heart is wide and gaping. Sometimes strained and aching. An invisible, malleable force binds us together, and the farther or longer we are stretched apart, the greater a tension that eventually snaps us back together with a whooshing embrace.
Cedar. My child. Hush now. Here I am. Mama will always be here. My need for you is as strong as your need for me. We are connected in ways that I can barely grasp with these words.