Oh wow, the house alone for a few minutes. I wish I wasn’t this type of person but I keep on getting annoyed at B. for seeming like he wants to be alone, or for not being totally “present” with me, when actually I think it’s just me who wants to be alone. And the other day with my mother, I got annoyed as soon as she showed up to help with the babe. We hadn’t even had a conversation yet. And there I am holding my baby, two months into diapering and rocking and burping and serenading, into putting my immediate needs second when he needs me to, knowing that she did all this for me and more that I don’t even know about yet and really all I should be saying is “Thank you” and instead I’m annoyed.
I’m not sure I’m a person for constant company. And especially not constant company with constant opinions. Because we all have opinions about what’s best for the boy and we’re trying to be polite about it but we’re all a hundred percent sure we’re right. Thus my delay this morning. I went back to bed with the boy because he made it clear to me he wasn’t interested in skipping our last sleep interval of the night which has been a late (“late” as in after 7:30) cuddle together in bed. He’s very wise because in fact I didn’t really want to skip it either, but I was guessing at B.’s thoughts and thinking that he’d prefer us all to laze about on the couch together. I had started baking something and abandoned it to B. and happily went back to bed with the boy, but then spent the rest of the morning mind-reading and deciding that B. was annoyed that I had gone back to bed and left him with the baking. I do think that sometimes he handles the solitude issue by simply being alone while we’re all together. But I should know by now I’m not as good at intuiting his thoughts as I think I am. Sometimes I read his mind and get pissed at him for what I’m sure is there.
B. got offered a job two days ago. And it’s a good job. But it would have him leaving the cave sooner than we expected, and I’m surprised at how sad I am at the idea of him leaving every morning and coming back nine or ten hours later. He and the boy have their own rhythms and patterns completely independent of me and it’s hard to imagine that surviving a standard work week. We’re so used to fathers not being around as the mothers are around, and I am the source yes, but isn’t it possible that the fathers are as indispensable?
The packaging on every single baby item we were given shows a woman caring for the babe. All the internet articles and advertisements and pieces of advice are geared toward mothers and women. I felt for B. during the pregnancy. Where was his baby shower? The public invasion into the life (and body) of the pregnant woman could be too much for me, but there was nothing for B. He wasn’t advised and complimented and courted. There were no rituals to guide him into fatherhood, to mark the huge transition he was about to go through.
When I was a child and imagined myself as a mother it was as a single mother. It was what I knew. And in the midst of our ten thousandth shared decision I’ve had moments when I wouldn’t mind being the sole decider, but I just can’t believe that parenting was ever meant to be a solo affair. Two adults hardly seems enough. We’re trying to fill our house on the weekends; to bring in our friends and family as often as possible; to pass the babe around. It’s good for him and it’s really good for us.
B. told me that he read this study in which people were shown photos of crying babies. Regardless of the gender of the infant, when the viewer was told that the babe was a boy they saw anger, and when they were told it was a girl, they saw fear. Fear being an emotion we want to comfort and anger being one we want to battle. One relative says to us, “He’ll be an athlete.” I say, “Or maybe a dancer.” “No,” she says, “an athlete.”
How to protect the emotional life of this boy. I know we have to work, but can’t there be some swirling pattern of schedules so that we are both here?
My father was not around. I don’t understand yet what makes it possible for some men, so many men, to miss this, but B. has brought fatherhood into my life in a new, magnificent way. Last night, after I nursed and climbed back into bed, I watched B. do the re-swaddling and rocking. Their swaying silhouette was clearly outlined, the boy in profile with his tiny, rounded nose and B.’s face as he watched, and I could tell that he was exhausted and just waiting for the boy’s eyes to close and stay closed. But he kept standing and kept rocking him. He is often more patient than I am at this. My mother told me that only my father, when he visited, was willing to push me on the swings as long as I wanted to be pushed. I watched B. bend and lower the boy into his bassinet, and saw how he was shifting a blanket over him and it made me feel secure right in the center of my chest, in the bone there that connects the ribs, an actual and literal sensation. I feel cared for by his love of the boy. It makes me feel safe in this time when I am made piercingly vulnerable by my need to protect and love this tiny new being.
I just can’t help thinking that this too, their time, is an essential thing that needs to be protected.
And that’s it. Time to dress and to go.