There is a baby in this house: her name is Sarah and she is five months old. She still doesn’t sit, crawl or talk. She just smiles, laughs and kicks her legs as if they were convulsing with glee.
Sarah is not my daughter. She has her own mom that loves and cares for her very much; we just happen to be sharing this house in Portugal for one month. But having a baby around leads to the questioning … “why don’t you have another baby? You still have time!”
Not a chance. That train has left the station … a while ago. Just the thought of having to change a diaper again is enough to keep me from dreaming about a third child. I do miss some quintessentially delicious baby stuff … like tiny feet and toothless smiles; and I like playing with Sarah, but I love even more giving her back to her primary caretaker. I cannot take care of anyone else.
And today I look at Fearless, my youngest, who is turning six years old and I remember when he was a baby. Those were not good times for my little family. Fearless had colic and cried, unconsolably, for HOURS. Dreamer was still not two years old and in diapers, we had moved houses, I was not working, and I was a mess. My then new neighbor told me, I kid you not, “honey, I’ve never prayed so much for someone I barely know as I have prayed for you and that child of yours.” Errr … gee … thanks I guess?!
I also got a nice note a gutless neighbor slipped under my door; a cut-out of some idiot’s opinion piece on a newspaper and the title was “Parents: Your Kids Crying Is NOT Okay.” Really? I felt as if I lived on an eternal red eye flight where everyone wanted to sleep but MY child was the one crying and keeping everyone up. My patience was spread thin. I go on major guilt trips about this. I look back at Fearless’ first year of life, at the pictures, and wonder if I was the best mom to the boys back then.
Because what I remember most was feeling overwhelmed. I read every book on early childhood I had available, and they all say how important it was to “be there” for your child, to have that bond, to make them feel loved and cared for and secure. Did I do that for them? Did Fearless feel loved, or did he sense how frazzled his mom was? I don’t know … again, what I remember is this:
I once attempted to walk with the two boys to the post office about two blocks away from my house. I had a double stroller and Fearless began crying. Because I knew the crying could escalate and then turn into hours of futility as I tried to calm him, I picked him up, put him in a front carrier and continued pushing the stroller now with an empty seat. It was hot. Three steps later, Dreamer begins to want to be carried too. I couldn’t carry both and told him so. He began to squirm to get off the stroller, and began to cry joining Fearless who was also not happy on the carrier. I just stopped the stroller and began to cry too. That is what I remember.
And it might be awful for me to say, but it is also something I know many moms feel, I didn’t enjoy that year. I am sure I did, at times, but I look at Fearless now … at how his smile lights up a room; at how he talks with such confidence to anyone who will listen; at how he puckers his lips to kiss you; and how he loves his brother more than any other kid around. That is the kid I love, and cherish, and cannot possibly live without.
This afternoon Joe and I had to leave the birthday boy to get my sister who will be joining us on our vacation. She was flying into the small airport in Vigo, Spain the closest one to where we are. I stood by the passenger exit to make sure I saw her when I saw three boys, obviously brothers, also waiting. The eldest must have been about eleven and the youngest four. I thought they might be waiting for grandparents or something, but it turns out that when a stylishly dressed woman walked out of that tunnel, they yelled “Mami!” and without exception ran to hug her. The eldest got her arm and put it around him so as to walk next to her and the little one held on to her waist. Dad came later sneaking in a kiss amidst the boys. Who knows what this family’s story was, but the love they shared was real and watching them brought tears to my eyes.
I went back thinking about my boys, and about Fearless who was at the house waiting for us to return so we could finally sing happy birthday to him. And I realized, yet again, that I am in love with my family. I have an incredible husband who not only puts up with my crazy ideas, but encourages me to do things I didn’t think I could do; and two rambunctious, happy, lovely boys to whom I am devoted. I am convinced my family is complete and perfect just the way it is.
That confidence lets me get hold of baby Sarah and enjoy her smiles, smells and drools. Knowing that though I am far from a perfect mother, most of the tears I have shed in the past six years with Fearless, were really tears of joy.