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So Much Love in My Life, and Still I Want More

27 Dec

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A colorful plastic star hangs on his crib and plays soft, soothing music, while pale pastel images are projected on the ceiling of his bedroom. He observes the images, wide eyed, with glee, and slowly, mesmerized, releases his grasp of awareness and sinks into a deep sleep. I sit beside him, my hand on his back, concentrating on his breaths, and on the soft movement of his back, like ripples in water, rising and descending. So small, I think to myself. How can I love something so small, so much.

Five years later, here I am, organizing the closet in the guest room, and wondering who gets the musical plastic star. I change the batteries and clean the toy with a wet cloth. PLAY. The soft ringing music is suddenly too much. Without warning, tears well up in my eyes. I’ll be 38 soon. He’s going on six. We have our cute little ground floor apartment facing an orchard filled with grapefruit trees, and our goofy dog runs around the yard, chasing away the cats (and mice) and getting into fights with a hedgehog every now and again. We have D and his girls, who spend time with us every week. And still, at the end of the day, it’s still just the two of us. At least it often feels this way.

There’s D. My man, the one who’s loved me for over three years now, who’s allowed me to truly get to know him, without censorship, who’s broken through the fortress that used to be my heart, who’s seen me cry, and made me laugh, who’s strong arms hold me on the nights we’re together, and when he’s inside me I sometimes can’t believe my luck, that I get to have my legs wrapped around him and experience such pleasure.

I love his two girls, although I don’t see enough of them, because we’ve decided not to live together. Or he’s decided and I’ve gone with it. Or I had to go with it, because it was non-negotiable. I’m not sure. And every time my period comes, I’m a little disappointed, because we’re not trying for a baby – that too is non-negotiable – but still I hope to somehow, accidentally get knocked up and ruin everything.

It sure would make things easier if I had another child. To begin with, I’d be so busy, there would be no time to think about my life and debate whether I’m content or if something is missing. Some things would definitely be missing: sleep, and alone time, and sex. But I would probably be too busy to notice. I also wouldn’t notice how my boy is all grown up, going on play-dates instead of listening to me read, and suddenly acting as if getting a hug from his mom after school is embarrassing.

But there is no baby, and probably won’t be another baby. Or – there can be another baby, maybe, but then I need to find a father. And I don’t want another father. I just want D.

I was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my son before bedtime tonight. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” Dumbledore told Harry, who was enchanted by the mirror of Erised.

I don’t want to forget to live. I don’t want to forget that even though he’s nearly six, he still crawls into bed with me on Saturday mornings. And that sometimes, when D is over with his girls, they crawl in too, and we all steal a few more minutes of sleep, all five of us together.

I don’t want to forget how even though we’ve been together for over three years, I still feel in love when I see him, and how he says things to me, like that I’m the second best thing that’s ever happened to him after his girls being born, and that he wants to love me for always and grow old with me by his side.

I don’t want to forget how lucky I am to be working in a place I find meaningful, to be affecting the lives of so many children every day, to truly like going to work in the morning and meeting my friends, who are my co-workers.

There is no baby. There may never be one. But I don’t want to stand there staring into my mirror of Erised and become addicted to the sight of a little bundle of happiness cradled in my arms, and forget that I can cradle my boy, or my man, or his girls, or my goofy, lovable dog.

He started reading now. My boy, not the dog. He’s outgrown all his clothes and shoes, and he no longer runs into my arms when I pick him up from kindergarten. But he does tell me about challenges and fears he’s overcome, and smiles at me with pride. He’s no longer obsessed with proving to me that he can do stuff on his own, and he’s not interested anymore in understanding how the world around him works. He now wants to understand abstract ideas, things that cannot be seen by means other than his own imagination. How did the universe begin, he asks. And what happens when you leave the atmosphere, and what is it like in space? And what will happen if I dig a very very very deep hole in the ground? I love how confident he is, not the way I was as a child, and so much more evolved than me – even as an adult. He knows his self worth, he loves himself. Looking at him I know I did a good job, and I know I could do it again.

I could.

But I won’t, I guess. And then when this saddens me.

And as I sit in the guest room, crying into a little plastic musical star, I think to myself that it’s unfair, that I have so much love in my life, and still – I want more.

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A Meaningful Narrative – The Challenges and Pleasures of Secular Parenting

3 Apr

My son is nearing four now, what an incredible age! When allowed to freely explore, ask questions, and wonder about life – this is an age of outstanding discoveries, of vital first impressions of the world, of discovering who is trustworthy, what is permitted, where one can go and where doors are shut.

I have two strong guidelines in my parenting, that have been guiding me from the day I brought my Boy back home from the hospital. Be authentic. Tell the truth. There is a lot more of course. I try to listen to him, I mean really listen, as much as I can. I try to set boundaries where they are necessary, I try to support his urges to be independent and guide him and be supportive, and not lose my patience and maintain composure, even if he throws a fit because his sunny-side-up is leaking and now he won’t eat it.

But I honestly believe, if I’m authentic, if Mom-Me, is not an entirely different person from Professional-Me, and Intellectual-Me, and Friend-Me, and Lover-Me, then I’m doing something right. So I tell my son about my day when I come back from school. He listens, and then he tells me about his day at preschool. I joke around with him, because I can be silly like that sometimes. I say I’m sorry when I make a mistake. And I tell him the truth, or a version of the truth that he can take in, when he asks me the big questions, when he wants to know how life begins and what happens when it ends.

Yes, he’s not even four yet. But my son has already asked if everyone dies, and if I’ll die one day. I couldn’t tell him some ridiculous story. A part of me wanted to go with the heaven-story. It’s a good one, really. It comforted me when I was younger. But I didn’t. I said we live forever in the hearts of those who love us. It’s a good narrative. It’s as close as I could get to where I really am vs the death thing. He accepted my narrative the way only four-year-olds can, absorbing it, inscribing it into his own narrative, into the truths that he will now grow up with.

Now he knows, because he asked and I answered, that the male and female bodies fit together perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle, that the sperm and the egg yearn to unite and form a baby. That they have to wait for love, because only when a man and a woman love one another, can they unite to form life. He knows that I think it’s a miracle. And so he finds if miraculous as well. And it is, isn’t it? He is too young to feel confused about it. Too young to be weirded out. The narrative I chose to deliver has now become one more truth that he will measure future stories about sex, love and child bearing against.

“How does the baby come out?” He asked.

“A woman body is amazing,” I said with wonder. “It widens for the baby to come out from between her legs. They in narrows again.”

“Really? It can do that?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Isn’t it amazing?”

 

 

 

“Those Ritalin Kids”

21 May

Yesterday afternoon there was a party at my son’s daycare. The theme was a farm, and it was super fun, from songs and old McDonald, to milking a cow, and petting a goat. The party ended with a huge inflatable castle that the children jumped on with joy. It was loud and exhausting and took place in the aftenoon, by which time I had only limited energy left. It also happened to take place on one of those workdays that just sucks all around, not to mention I was premenstrual as hell. But I kept it together, and I enjoyed seeing my child participate in the activities, raise his hand and wait his turn (and he’s not even three yet!) By the time the jumping began, I sat down on a little stool, staring into mid air, glad the day was almost over.

It was the end of the party, and most of the younger children had already gone home. The older boys were still going nuts on the inflatable castle, jumping, crashing and screaming with joy, when the teacher said it was time to get off. One of the mothers then said, jokingly: “You can fold up the castle with the kids in it. The ones that are still jumping are the ones whose parents wouldn’t care anyway.” Another mother heared this and laughed and added “Those ritalin kids.”

Now, I am a fairly cynical person, and I can take a joke. Really, I can even take a hollocaust joke every now and then, and I’m Jewish. But having a person who does not even know me, joke at the expense of my son was too much. I know I was overly sensitive, but I was so insulted I couldn’t let this sentence out of my mind for the entire evening, and here I am blogging about it.

First of all, it’s ignorant and stupid. Three year old boys on an inflatable castle are not supposed to behave any differently than how those children behaved. They are supposed to be happy, jump and scream, that is the whole point of the activity. Secondly, even if it were a group of hyperactive three year olds, who the hell are you to joke about how their mothers feel about them and how much they care. Thirdly, as a teacher, I have met children who really needed medication to overcome attention disorders, who were much happier as a result. It is rare. And those kids are ten, not three. Really, ritalin and other medications are SO overused, it makes me angry that people talk about it so lightly. Lastly, uhhhh I could just keep talking forever about how ignorant, stupid and disrespectful what that mother said was, but it’ll do me no good.

I should have told her off, I would have felt better. But since I didn’t, I’ll do the second best thing and write it down, so I can stop thinking about it. Oh, and thank god my boy has a mother who knows better.