Since my oldest son was born, my husband has been the one to give our children their baths. I do it when necessary, but mostly I avoid it. When they were little babies their slippery, wet skin and squirmy, wiggly bodies made me very nervous. He had a deft hand, and enjoyed the task, so it naturally evolved into his regular contribution.
While he bathes the children, I typically clean up our supper dishes, tidy the kitchen and make lunches for the next day. And then, as they splish and splash and generally cause flood-like messes in our family bathroom, I collect their jammies and join them in time to gather children snug into their hooded towels. My youngest prefers that I take over at this point, and I’m only too happy to oblige. There is something particularly heart-warming about a toddler wrapped tightly in a towel, smelling fresh and clean. I hold him close and nestle into the wetness of his neck, enjoying his cherubic face.
One night last week, as I scooped him up into our nightly cuddle, I whispered to him: “Mmmm, I love you my baby.”
His response. “I not baby mama.”
I was taken back, feeling a little scorned. I looked to my husband, shock plain on my face. Not only did his words catch me off guard, but the vehemence with which he delivered them was startling.
My husband was amused, since he’s not one to feel emotionally tied to their babyness. I, on the other hand, felt as thought I’d received a cold glass of water in the face.
Both my boys are changing, rapidly it seems, in front of my very eyes. I’ve been ruminating about it recently after reading some powerful, everyday stories by other bloggers I admire. I realized I’ve written so few stories about my boys here. As I thought about it, trying to come up with some things to share with you, I realized I really have so few to share. What I can’t decide is whether it’s because I’m away from them so much, 10 hours a day, five days a week, or if it’s because when I’m with them I’m not engaged or observant enough to store and later tell our stories.
My oldest son will soon be five and every day I see him emerging from a sweet, sensitive pre-schooler to boisterous middle childhood. He’s bold, testing his and our limits, venturing more and more into ideas and interests that don’t include us. Later this summer, my youngest will be two and a half, and as I already described, he’s shedding his babyness as if it’s a weight that’s been holding him back. He’s in a hurry to be bigger, to be like his older brother, to try new things.
I feel I should hold on tighter, slow it down, wrap them in my protective arms and keep them close forever. When I let myself follow these thought, I find myself regretting my choice to work full-time as I raise my children. The time they spend away from me feels stolen and lost, and sometimes what I’m missing cuts like a knife. They have whole, large pockets of their young lives that I know nothing about. And even though I know they are safe and loved where they are, I still can’t help but feel a flame of resentment at the situation I’ve created.
It’s a funny tug-and-pull situation. I’ve always struggled with motherhood. Even today, almost five years later, I haven’t really sunk completely into its consuming embrace. I know I wouldn’t be good at staying with them every day, that we all benefit from time away. But more and more I feel like I’m living my life on a tight-rope, balancing precariously as I walk between two end points: motherhood and career.