I never thought I’d be the mother enduring some sort of existential crisis because her baby is turning five. I don’t know, I’m not much of feeler.
No, that’s a lie. I have always been a grade-A feeler, but I used to be an excellent feelings-suppressor, thinking as long as I didn’t look sad, I wouldn’t actually be sad. As long as I didn’t show you I had feelings, I didn’t actually have the feelings. If anybody would like further emotional intelligence guidance, I’ll be here all week.
Crying felt like vulnerability which felt like I’D RATHER DIE.
If this makes sense to you, hi. We should probably go to therapy together.
I’m totally healed now. Totally. I assure you. Despite my max-healed status (I may be overshooting here a bit), I still have a hard time crying in front of certain people and those certain people are people I’m the closest to.
I’ll cry in front of a room full of strangers at a book reading but have a very, very hard time crying in front of, say, Mac. I can cry with love, or remembering a loved one, but I can’t cry because he hurt my feelings. I can’t cry when I’m just HURTING.
The more I write about this the more I feel like you’re going to tell me I’m highly disturbed and should throw in the towel in a sort of all-encompassing life way.
There’s some part of me that suspects that if you know I’m sad, that you’ve hurt me, you’ll think I’m weak and beat me with a metal rod until I bleed out.
Maybe I should keep these things inside.
Anyway, something happened to me at about age 35, and it’s just gotten worse (better?) since then. Thirty-five was also the year I turned five years sober, so I really have no idea if this development is on account of age in years or the relative maturity that comes with sobriety, but my fucking point here is I FEEL SHIT ALL THE TIME NOW AND I AM SAD ABOUT MY BABY TURNING FIVE AND I WANT ANOTHER ONE LEAVE ME ALONE.
I never knew I’d be a mother who looks at her youngest and simply wants him to stay.
I don’t want him to get to that next phase or stop this or stop that. I just want him to stay, right here.
It isn’t that he doesn’t annoy me. He does. Kids are annoying. But all I really feel when I look at him is an all-consuming gratitude that I still have this tiny bouncing kid in my house.
I have his lisp and his fat little fingers shoving Spiderman into the mouth of a metal bird on my mom’s porch. I have his little bottom racing down the hallway to escape the bath. I have his ringlets covered in unknown sticky substance two hours after the bath he almost escaped. I have his big eyes and closed-mouth smile and endless, meandering, nihilist questions. I have him playing on our floor.
Oh lord almighty, the playing. The imagination. The little lilt they get while inventing games “Pretend you’re the fireman and I’m the dad and you come to save me but my dog won’t leave.” Can you hear it? All the kids use the same one.
The story spins endlessly. Pretend, pretend, pretend. Do they ever actually play? I watch them and listen as they create the scene endlessly, never actually having the characters do the thing. I could watch them all day, but I stay in another room, because they’ll stop if they know you’re there. Or they might. I want them to get lost. I want them to forget about me so I can soak them up just as they are without Mama around.
I still have a little body against mine, a body that fits perfectly in the curve of my body, that snores the tiniest little grumbly snore, that smells like sweet baby sweat in his neck. I still bury my head in it when he wakes up. I take in the wild fuzz of his head. Pajamas. I have those, too.
I’ll never be a person who wags her finger and instructs young mothers (hahaha) to “Enjoy it. It goes so fast.” But fuck me, I’m here living that recognition against my fucking will. I didn’t ask for it. I HATE FEELINGS AND SENSITIVITY.
I certainly don’t enjoy this all the time, and my patience is just sort of – misplaced? – but I can tell you that every single fucking day, I think about how soon I’ll turn around and he’ll be somebody else. He’ll talk “properly” and he won’t spend thirty minutes rolling a truck on a pillow with a Paw Patrol character, and he won’t just fit on my lap if I curl him into a very tight ball. He just won’t be, well, a little guy.
I suppose in a way this is a wonderful place to be, though if I think about it too hard I dip my toe into a pool of guilt and sadness that I didn’t “take it all in” perfectly enough when my other kids were young. I thought I had forever. I knew another was coming along.
I thought I had forever.
You don’t think about how things will end when it all feels like a beginning.
But fuck guilt. We only have what we have when we have it. And back then, I had the smooth-sailing ignorance of “so many years.” And now, now I have minutes that seem to contain entire lifetimes. That’s how sacred they’ve become. I hold them like I hold his little hand, aware of the softness of his palm in mine, the pressure of his grasp, and how fast it slips away when he turns, runs.
Happy birthday, Arlo.
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