Sunday, January 29, 2006

The irony of motherhood

The last two days I've seen glimpses of a different little boy than the one I've come to know. It's pretty typical for Sam to crawl commando-style across the room huffing and puffing at me as if to say, "I'm going to get you!" When he arrives at my side, he'll swat at my face, grab my hair or put his fingers in my mouth. He does these things unknowingly, and not at all meanly; these behaviors are just his boyish inclinations. But yesterday, I saw a flash of the gentle infant who I used to hold in my arms. Just before his would-be naptime, he came over, put his face right up to mine, looked in my eyes and put his head on my shoulder in a hug without arms. Pure joy, I thought.

This simple gesture was more emotionally communicative than most anything he'd ever done. It felt like his way of saying "Mama, I'm a little tired and I'd like to feel your warmth for just a minute." My guy is fiercely independent even from this very young age and this small gesture was gratifying because he was more than just my little wild boy, he showed he's a boy who needs me too. It struck me that he isn't like the needy toddler I imagined before I met him. Some kids weep as their parents exit the room or they cling to their moms in uncertain surroundings or when strangers are around. Not my Sam. He's never displayed even an inkling of separation anxiety. If we're out at a park or someone's home, all he wants to do is get down so he can wander off and explore. Now I love that adventurous spirit but surely it wouldn't be so terrible for my guy to glance back to make sure Mama's still around. Would it?

Perhaps it's because he's certain I'll always be here for him. And, God willing, I will. Even so, there are days I ache to know he cares for me even a fraction of how I care for him. I suppose that feeling pain and pleasure is the irony of motherhood. And if this little phase (if I can be so hopeful to call two days a phase) ends abruptly, as I suspect it might, I'll just have to enjoy the special occasion hugs and think of them fondly the next time he gets a good, firm grip on my nose.
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