It’s easy to look at you and wonder where my little baby went. Everyone says the years go by so quickly, and yet each 24 hour period with a newborn or toddler seems so long. You are my first born, so we’ve always gone through this together – unknowingly, you teach me how to be a mom by taking me through all your first steps. And, I learn as I go. I guess that’s why it’s so easy to get frustrated when I can’t give you what you need. It’s never been you – it’s me.
When you were only a few months old, I nursed you first thing in the morning. Often you woke up happy – I’d find you in your crib, staring at the ceiling, quietly kicking your feet and moving your hands. Other mornings, you woke up screaming, like you were so hungry you hadn’t eaten in days.
The first 6 weeks were the most challenging – you continued crying as I navigated the best way to get you to latch on, to keep you comfortable and satisfied. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it wrong, or if you were unhappy for some other reason, and I did my best to read the signs. Slowly, we got used to each other – and once we realized this was our little morning ritual, we both calmed down and enjoyed the moment.
Now you are 4, and your morning ritual has changed. You come down the stairs, with heavy feet and sleepy eyes. I look at you, “Good morning, Bennett!” You scream out angrily, and run the other way. Like when you were a baby, I am at a loss for what you need. When I ask you what’s wrong, it makes everything worse – because you expect me to know already. And you’re right – I should know. I’m your mom, which means I should have all the answers for you.
What should we do when we want to help someone, but we don’t have the answer? Maybe we are too solution-driven and we forget that the struggle and emotion is all meaningful too. You, Bennett, are not a problem to be solved or an equation to be balanced. Giving you the solution might fix the immediate issue, but it won’t teach you anything. It won’t teach you that sometimes we wake up sad or tired or frustrated and that’s ok. It won’t teach you that a hug and a practice of calm abiding as you navigate the difficult emotion is often all we need – and what we seek. Just like when we were breastfeeding, and both of us had tears streaming down our faces, we recognize the magic of the moment, perfect in its imperfection.
For now, I will remind myself that I can be there for you even if I don’t completely understand why something is happening. And really, that’s what parenthood (and life) is all about – we learn to recognize patterns and not repeat something that elicits a bad response. That’s why parents have bedtimes and nap times and routines and rules. We learn from experiences that teach us as we go – we learn to read the signs. I can see that waking up is not always your favorite thing right now. I get it, transitions are hard, and getting up in the morning to start a new day makes many adults want to scream and run as well. I will give you space; I will tell you I love you.
This morning when I heard your feet on the stairs I tried to think of the best way to react. I continued pouring milk into Andrew’s cereal bowl and only looked up when I knew you were standing in the doorway. We paused as our eyes met, communicating. “Cheerios?” I asked calmly. You flashed me your famous grin and walked over to the pantry – “No, I’ll show you what I want.” I exhaled – thank God, one less guess.
I love you, Mom