Wednesday, 25 March 2015

What babies do

I was tough, once upon a time. I was tough and untouchable and unreachable and unabashedly proud of it. Just try to make me cry. Just try to make me reveal the deeper parts of me. Just try to make me share myself, my thoughts, my fears, my dreams. Just try.

Sometimes I wondered what was wrong with me. I didn't cry at deaths or funerals or marriages or births or any of those other tear-worthy events. I still don't. Four times now I've birthed my own flesh and blood and still not shed a tear; am I broken?

But then I look at my babies, later, I mean, when it's just the two of us and everything is perfectly ordinary. I look at them and my heart swells and I cry, I do. I tear right up at the sheer perfection that is this child. I really and truly get to raise this tiny human? Really? It's baffling and beautiful and terrifying and wonderful and yes, I cry. Now I cry.

Maybe this is what babies do: They make us soft. Soft around the middle, soft in our hearts, those hearts we now watch walking around in the world.

(Maybe they even make us a bit soft in the head. There was a time when I loved a good intellectual debate; now, though, I find less interest in reasoning someone under the table. Perhaps it's because I spend all day with argumentative children. I'm simply all argued out. Let's just hang out and not debate the timing of chore-doing or the merits of sharing or the importance of whatever life skill is currently lacking. Yes?)

My great-grandmother was fond of reminding others that it's those who are closest to us who hurt us the most. She said it bitterly, though, and that bitterness was passed down to her daughter and then to her grand-daughter, my mother, who repeated it often to me as I disappointed her time and again.

I want to be the woman who takes the bitterness out of that adage. Yes, those who are closest to us will hurt us the most. But it not because of them - it's because of us. It's not because they treat our feelings carelessly or take us for granted. It's because we care so much more. We love and fear and worry and protect and care. It is our own love that wounds us. And oh, there are mama-aches innumerable as they grow.

These babies of ours make us soft, vulnerable. But it's a softness born of love; it's an ache as their humanity collides with our hearts; it's the madness of seeing both perfection and weakness, both indescribable beauty and utter chaos, in the same small person. It's rediscovering our own weaknesses through the eyes of a child. It's a refining, to be sure.

Yes, I'm softer now.

It's what babies do.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Little People: An Introduction

For most of my time in this space, I have referred to my nameless children by their growing titles: the boy, the preschooler, the toddler, baby girl, baby boy, whatever was appropriate at the time. These descriptions, useful but ever-changing, have become increasingly more difficult as time passes.

The olders are mentioned here less often, their individual lives and stories being left alone for them to tell on their own someday, at a time and to an audience of their choosing. I still like to chat about them, though, just those innocuous everyday comings and goings that make up the pattern of our lives. The babies, of course, are fairer game, being rather universal in their coos and cries and naps. Either way, still small or growing older, how much simpler to just refer to them by name!

To that end, I'd like to properly introduce you to my little people, with nicknames and ages and oh so very big personalities:

This is Jay. He's coming up on eight years old, and like countless mothers before me, I can scarcely believe it. Sometimes I catch myself staring at him, just staring, marveling at how old (and yet still so young) he looks. He has a delicious sprinkling of freckles across his nose; he pretends to hate them but grins all the same as I try to kiss each one. Then he wipes my kisses off, because gross, Mom, but that's okay, there are more where those came from and I can't get enough of his laughter. He is my mini-me, my childhood self reincarnated, which is beautiful and hard and lovely and challenging and more than a little frightening. He is, in a word, amazing, and I am endlessly in awe of the person he is growing into. He loves late night snuggles, a chance to talk about his day and ask his big questions long after the other kids have fallen asleep. His interests vary from math to soccer to science to drawing to reading to comics to Mario Kart. He cheers for any sports team but the one his dad cheers for, and he is full of mischief and love and thoughtfulness.

This is Kai. Oh, my wild five year old, endless bounding energy and passion and extremes. He's everything his brother wasn't - the lover of potty humour, weapons, wrestling, and all that is loud and crazy. He will protest chores like it's the end of the world, no, I'm not going to do that, I won't, a steady stream of refusal right up until the job is finished. Then off he goes, cheerful as ever, and I just smile and shake my head at his ability to dig his heals in even as he does the task at hand. He's never felt a need to do anything at less than full volume and throttle. He's a determined skater, his Canadian-boy dreams filled with the hope of becoming a hockey player someday. He is my incredible storyteller: Kai has an entire imaginary village in his head, and we are often regaled with tales of "his people" as we sit around the dinner table. The inner workings of his body, too, are a story unto themselves, from the "reflections" that his eyes shoot out to the armour-covered white blood cells that not only destroy germs but also build themselves little houses. Kai's stories are as much a part of him as his arms and legs.

This is Ell. She is my delightful baby girl, as much as her two-and-a-half years will still allow me to call her that. She is every bit as passionate and unbounded as the one before her, loud and silly and wild and crazy and passionate and joyful. Her steady narration is the background music of my day: "What you doing, Mommy? Oh, you cooking? What you cooking? Oh, you cooking oatmeal? I yike oatmeal. We have boo-berries? Oh, we do have boo-berries? I yike boo-berries. Oh! Baby wake up! He wake up by hisself! I not wake him up! HEY BABY! I YUV YOU, BABY! You wake up!" If her brothers are doing it, she wants to do it, always right there in the middle of everything. She thanks me enthusiastically every time I do the laundry, which is often, given the amount of laundry around here. She takes great delight in combing her daddy's hair: "Turn head, Daddy. Now down. Now up. Now udder side." This one likes her routines, a nice predictable pattern in which to snuggle safely. She's my little thumb-sucker, hair-twirler, and lover of all that is Hello Kitty.

This is Min. Oh, my Min. He's been melting our hearts for half a year already. He likes to chew on fingers and pull on his sister's hair, much to her indignation. He is the sort of happy that cannot be described, just endless smiles and cuddles and laughter and contentment. I could happily spend my days nomming his neck or blowing raspberries on his belly or letting him grab my face as I growl at him. I was pretty chill with my babies - friends and strangers alike have always commented on that, you're just so calm! - but this one? This fourth sweet baby? He's the one who released those last niggling worries, foolishness about holding babies too much or forming bad habits or spoiling them or other such ridiculous nonsense. No, this one is my joy-baby, my snuggle-baby, my don't-worry-about-a-thing-baby, my soak-him-up-baby, because every cliché about how fast they grow is true. They are all so very very true. Babies are made for days like these, slow days of cuddles and laughter and entirely devoid of worry. It all works out in the end.

Introductions finally accomplished and story-telling made a little simpler, I hope to return to a more steady pace in this little space of mine. Thank you for being here.