When my son was born, his immense need
and my ability to answer it were like the two hemispheres
of the world. Sometimes I was afraid and bewildered
yet comforted in knowing what my purpose was.
When he slept in my bed between bouts of nursing,
I’d throw my arm lightly across his chest
like a cave-dwelling woman making sure that predators
had to contend with me first. I remember
marveling at his acceptance of my arm
on his sleeping form at six months, nine months, a year.
His uncomplicated thought was that it was good that I was there.
If I turned from one side to the other so my back
faced him, he’d wake up crying within seconds.
Five and a half is a different story. Now, he throws
his forty pounds around. Until a few weeks ago,
to sleep in his own bed, he needed me to read to him
then cuddle him. This often led to my falling asleep
for the rest of the night. But now
he needs the whole bed to himself. Could I sit on the floor
next to the bed and read?
I love to put my arm around him and smell the sweet
spring air on the top of his head. But if I’ve eaten garlic or drunk coffee
he says, Mommy, your breath smells horrible!
I’ve gotten him to change it to Your breath doesn’t smell
that good—maybe you should brush your teeth, but really it makes
very little difference.
And sometimes when he has
a Lego vision, like a space station or a control tower,
only his dad will do. Daddy knows more about them,
he says, but really our visions are too dissimilar,
and he’s like Chihuly, wanting minions to execute what’s in his head.
I think of my grandmother crying
when I told her at five that I didn’t like
a doll she’d given me because its lined blue irises
stared vacantly. My dismay then was rooted in
the thought that adults were supposed to be stronger, less fragile
than the sturdy kids who were waiting their turn
to rule the Earth. But here I am.