For the past several months the same thought has been occupying my mind. Maybe the observation is prompted by my own age increase, Moose’s impending birthday, or just surviving a really insane year. I sit in Moose’s room as he slumbers. Our nightly routine complete when I hear his gentle breathing and watch his relaxed face. I sit in the same rocking chair that I cried in our first night at home together. Complete terror and frustration filling my soul. I was convinced I was already failing. I couldn’t see beyond that moment. Couldn’t think of anything past his mounting cries.
This chair has been our constant from that moment. Through reflux. Self doubt. Teething. Divorce. Sleep training. Nightmares. Foot cramps. Minecraft theories. Endless books. Anxiety. Tears; his and mine. Separation anxiety. Hugs that we both needed. This rocking chair has been the staple in the ever changing landscape of his room. He’s gone from a crib to a toddler bed. Expanded into a day bed. And now sprawls across a full mattress. All of which I have slept in at one time or another. Mostly for his comfort, but sometimes for mine.
I can’t help but contemplate that this room- it’s evolution- is the outward reflection of what him and I have experienced over the last four years. He’s gone from toddling to running at an impressive speed. Babbling to regaling me with factoids and imaginative narratives. His legs now must fold and bend as he wraps his arms around me. He no longer can be enveloped by my arms alone. As his emotional spectrum has expanded, he no longer experiences a mere handful of emotions. He can express that he’s sad. His feelings are hurt. He’s frustrated. Scared. In a bad mood. Thinks I’m the best mommy. Thinks I’m a super duper mean mommy. Loves me “so very much”. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him become an autonomous human being while I have been doing the same.
I saw a quote recently that said something to the effect of “We didn’t realize that we were watching our parents grow up while they were watching us”. I can’t speak for others, as I am only intimate with my own experience, however not only has my son watched me grow as the years have passed, he has been indelibly the incentive for a great part of it.
The world is full of platitudes about how kids need the best version of their parents. They deserve the levity of childhood without being wrought with battles between their parents, walking on eggshells, or any other manner of passive neglect. Doing what is best for my son in the midst of divorce and navigating co-parenting is a non-negotiable. It’s the things that aren’t splashed across inspirational Instagram feeds that are the crucial (and most difficult) portion of parenting.
Birthing classes teach you how to swaddle a baby. Try to prepare you for the various possibilities of labor and delivery. There is no class that tells you how to work through mom guilt. No manual that informs you how to bear the burden of being a solo parent. No one in the next room to call upon when tensions raise with your tiny human. Having to be the disciplinarian, comforter, encourager, and everything in between. No one prepares you for the first time you watch your child’s face crumble when you lose your temper on them. That’s the heartbreaking, yet simultaneously brilliant aspect of children. They are a mirror. They show you where you can become a version of yourself you may be a bit more proud of.
I must be honest, the further I get into the stream of consciousness, I realize that I have no clear path I was planning to take with these words. I have a jumble of thoughts. The first thread I pull on to try and unravel the tangle is that being a parent taught me the true meaning of selflessness. Giving up things I really don’t want to for the best interests of my little guy. The statement that you would take a bullet for you kid- that’s the easy part. You see, protecting your child in a dangerous situation, that’s reflex. It is hardwired in our brains for the survival of the species. No, the truly selfless bits? Those are the moments you rub aching feet and try to sooth a screaming toddler in the middle of the night instead of snapping. Rewatching the same movie seventy-two times in a row because it brings such joy to their face. Biting your tongue when they regale you with why their daddy is the best daddy when you’re embroiled in a child support lawsuit. It’s making sure that they know that you want them to have a blast at the other parents house, when the petty bits of you don’t fully believe that. It’s learning how to process your own emotions and anger in a healthier way to teach them by example. It’s therapy. Growth. And the tiny moments that you stop what you’re doing because this small person needs a hug. It is recognizing that the small inconveniences of losing a toy are earth shattering to someone who has spent a fraction of time in this world. Selflessness is love.
I look at my son, days before his fifth birthday, and I think of him as a one year old. It seems, my mind doesn’t go much further back from that with him. Almost like life pre-separation was an abirritation. A haze of events that I withstood until I woke up. Until I became who I really am. My mind catalogues the changes in Moose over the last four years. His speech evolution. The loss of his chubby baby legs, replaced with a slender built. His desire to repeat a joke to pull as much laughter from me as he can. His gentle encouragements of how I’m a great helper. How the lessons I have done my best to instill in him are now repeated back to me.
I have said this before, but I will say it again. I thought the baby phase would be the ultimate. It would be the portion of his life I always remembered with wistful emotion. Oh how wrong I was. The baby years were the hardest. The loneliest. The most fearful. Now, I am bestowed the gift of seeing the world through his imagination. I wouldn’t give up these years for all the fortunes in the world. Now our bond goes beyond my necessity to keep him mobile and fed. He wants me on his adventures. He desires me near to behold his narratives. To share his joys and soften his disappointments.
I guess this winding path of phrases has taken me here: as I plan for a celebration of the birth of Moose I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Not just for being his mother, but for the opportunity to grow into a person I didn’t realize I could be. For the ability to be a spectator in his life as he becomes whomever it is that he is destined to be.
Mostly, I cannot believe that this tiny human has held my heart for nearly five years. The night he was born, I was too, in many ways. The night I brought him home from the hospital, we were both afraid. These new roles foreign to us. Getting to know each other and our new lives. Five years later, we are still figuring out the world together. Experiencing new things life throws our way. But we are less timid. Less unsure of ourselves. It seems, we have found the confidence to be ourselves together.
Happy Birthday, my Moose. Thank for for the lessons. The love. Just merely being you.