When my ex recently dropped the news that he'd booked a trip to Maui and I'd be "on shift" for 12 days straight with B, including five full days of spring break, my initial reaction was nothing short of complete shock. Left to coordinate the details of child care, there were many times, initially, when the idea of parenting without much of a break seemed completely daunting.
Now I'm realizing what a gift K, my ex, gave me.
During the last six months, I've been so caught up in my relationship, my business, my sleeplessness, my mom moving in, my everything, that I've failed, in a small but profound way, to slow down and revel in the sweetness of my son.
Keeping a daily routine has been so much of my focus lately. Cover this time period while I work, be here at this time to get B from school, be sure to have homework completed by bed, etc etc etc. And somewhere in the midst of the coordinating and scheduling and negotiating, I stopped connecting with him in the way that I want to connect - as a mother to her son.
So over the last two weeks, I stopped and took some time to re-discover the lighthearted side of parenting. And to be fair, what I'm about to share may only be of interest to B's grandma. But at least I have some special times to reflect back on. Here is what I discovered about my son:
He cracks me up.
One night the dog jumped up on the couch, looked over at me, proceeded to turn twice and drop onto the cushion with the typical Lab look of, "I'm so dumb that I can do this right in front of you." B literally fell on the floor, clutching his stomach with laughter. He laughed so hard that he couldn't catch his breath. I laughed right along with him. The next day, he watched a monster truck show at my friend, Shelley's house. She has Dish, we do not. When we came home, B asked, "Mommy, can we please trade TVs with Shelley?" Funny boy, he is.
He's babyish and boyish, all at the same time.
We're walking out the door. I have my gym bag and files. B has his backpack and his lunch. I tell him to grab a water bottle on the way out. "I can't Mommy," he tells me. "I'm full of hands." The very same day I tell him we're going to McDonald's to play. Indignantly, he states, "I'm am TOO old to play there." Then, "But I will take a Happy Meal. Do you think I can get the Spiderman toy?" And later that night: "Mommy, tell me about the mistakes you've made." I ask, "The mistakes I've made today?" "No," he tells me. "The mistakes you've made in your LIFE." Really? Do Happy Meal toys and tales of divorce go together?
He is a hopelessly in love with the dog.
Molly, our Lab, could possibly be the best thing that's ever happened to B. Normally, the dog accompanies us on our trips back and forth from school. One day, I didn't have time to go and get the dog before pick-up. B and I are walking to the car, through the school parking lot. B peers in the back window. "Where's the girl?" he asks. And again: "Mommy, where's OUR girl?" At bedtime, he wants Molly in her bed. In his doorway. As I am leaving his room, it's become a custom for B to jump out of bed and say that he "needs one more pet of her soft ears." He then showers her nose with kisses and reiterates to me: "You WILL leave her there all night, right? And don't shut my door. I need to SEE her." Recently, he's started to tell me, "Molly is my favorite. You're my second favorite, but she's my first." I don't find this to be threatening at all. I love that he has bonded with her.
I get on his nerves as much as he gets on mine.
In an effort to break up the monotony of two long Saturdays, we had B's friend, Ean over. Ean and B played non-stop on both days. At the end of both Saturdays, after dropping Ean off, we had the same conversation in the car. B starts to cry. "Mommy, I love Ean. And I love Lauren. And all my playgroup friends. I want them to live with me. I don't want to play alone anymore." "But I'm here to play with you, honey, I remind him. "It's NOT the same," he tells me. "You are not as fun. You have too much work to do. I get tired of playing with you." Crying increases. "I just love my friends so much. Why can't one of them come and live with me?"
He's becoming frighteningly inquisitive.
I thought that the "mistakes" question was hard. Then he hit my mom with this: "Grandma Ghee, why doesn't the Easter bunny look like Sherman, the rabbit at school?" My mom chose the honest and direct approach: "Because it's not a rabbit at all. It's a man dressed in a costume." I think I need to apologize in advance to all the Kindergarten parents because this is news that B absolutely cannot keep to himself. At least Easter will have passed once school resumes.
He surprises me with his good behavior.
We have made it to church or "big church" as B knows it, several weeks in a row. We're up to one hour of sitting quietly in the pew, using a "church mouse" voice. Not one incident. Even when the entire contents of a Crayola art set (that would be approximately 118 crayons, 42 colored pencils, 19 pens, and one pair of scissors) came crashing to the floor. I think that the donut incentive is working out quite well.
I do believe that he loves me as much as I love him.
During my single parenting stint, I developed the worst cold/flu bug of all time. I cannot remember a time when I was so sick. I lost my voice for three days straight and coughed my lungs up, all the while blowing through two boxes of Klee-nex. B responded by making me get well cards and laying in bed with me. Then I developed tendinitis. The cards continued. And then the gifts came. Gifts from the school playground, also known as garbage to most people. Apparently, B now uses much of his recess time to search for treasures for his beloved mother. He covertly slips a rock, a used up sticker, a piece of rope into his pocket and then whispers to me at pick-up, "Mommy, I have another present for you."
About halfway into our stetch of time together, he said, "Mommy, I love the time I spend with you so much. I never want to leave you." I think my heart split open, wide open, at that moment, to the wondrous and limitless joys of motherhood. And I'm reminded, yet again, of the teeny, tiny window when this child will be mine to treasure for all of his sweetness.