Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I’m still a child, too. A child and a mother. An arrow and a bow.
Khalil Gibran has always spoken to me deeply. I loved this little poem long before I had a child. But now I feel it with the experience of parenthood, not just the anticipation of it. Ali is a swift golden arrow, I am a strong but pliable bow, and Fate is the archer, pointing in a direction I may never know.
This goes for all children, of course, whatever their genetic origins.
And my little man draws closer every day to taking his fate in his own hands. He can scoot across the floor on his belly with alarming swiftness. The crawling quilt cannot contain him. The house is his. And he wants to explore everything, touch everything, push and pull everything, lick everything. So impatient to Know Everything about this big world he finds himself in. That’s his job now, to play and explore and learn, and it’s such a joy and a privilege to watch it happen. To see him evolve before my eyes from a cute little lump to an insistent explorer.
He doesn’t even seem like a baby. He seems like a vast intelligence trapped in a tiny body. Which I guess is exactly what he is. Kids generally have bigger thoughts and feelings than they can express, and they really are the universe’s biggest known brains just trying to develop into themselves. He is something else, though. I’ve known a few babies in my time, and while I had no expectations of my son as far as physicality or intelligence or anything, he seems unusually… person-like. I don’t know how else to say it. He just doesn’t seem like a baby as much as most babies do.
He is, of course, a baby, though, and today he did a very baby thing. He fell off the bed. He 100% refuses to nap in his crib lately, and the only way I can get him down is to feed him to sleep. The only place I can do that comfortably is on my bed. (We still don’t have a couch, and the play room gets way too hot. We need to get some blackout curtains in there so that it isn’t so hot during the day. There’s a major greenhouse effect going on in the one room in the house that doesn’t have trees outside the windows.)
Once he’s asleep on my bed, I pile pillows around him to prevent him from rolling or crawling off. But he can lift pillows if he wants to, so I know it’s not fool-proof. As an added precaution, I piled a bunch of things between the bed and the wall so that he can’t fall down there. I filled up the space tightly. But not all the way to the end of the bed. Still, he usually fusses when he wakes, so there’s plenty of time to go catch him before he starts exploring.
I know I sound like an idiot. Of course this was going to happen. But when something works at nap time, and nothing else seems to, it’s so damn hard to give that up until your hand is really forced.
So yeah. He was napping, had just fallen asleep maybe 20 minutes earlier, and I was right outside the door when I heard a thump. It wasn’t very loud, but the crying that followed was. I rushed in and found him crumpled at the foot of the stuff piled behind the bed. Thankfully he hadn’t really fallen but more like slid down the pile head-first. I picked him up and soothed him, checking him for any marks or other symptoms of injury. He seemed pouty, put out, a little scared, but all in all it wasn’t even as bad as a vaccination as far as a freak-out. He was smiling and cooing and belly scooting across the floor in no time.
Still, I shouldn’t have put him in that position in the first place. And it’s going to get so much worse from here, keeping him safe from himself and from any situation he may find himself in, as much as I can. While at the same time letting him explore and take some inevitable knocks. Everything, everything in parenthood is a compromise, a relentless pursuit of balance, of not totally coddling a kid or making yourself miserable with endless restrictions, but keeping them safe from serious harm. And so much will simply be out of my hands.
But choosing whether to put him on a bed surrounded by drop-offs is in my hands, and that’s the end of that. I am not looking forward to whatever tomorrow’s nap battles will look like. He seriously acts traumatized when I try to put him in the crib, and I don’t know if he’ll fall asleep on the floor, even if I feed him there. And it’s not healthy for a baby not to nap. It’s a biological need. And damn it makes my day hard if he doesn’t, on so many levels. (And he’s still getting up at least 3-4 times a night to feed.)
Sigh. He is sweet, though. When I’m playing with him on the bed, not with any toys, just with my face and hands and voice, and his little smile lights up, and I feel connected to this marvelous little being who came into the world searching for that connection, to know I can give him just what he needs, everything I wanted as a kid (emotionally speaking), and just to feel the sweetness of it… It’s such an amazing thing. My mother was depressed when I was a baby, in a psychologically abusive marriage, and she did her best, but I’m in such a better place as a mom than she was. It’s so nice to be able to give what I couldn’t get.
A little part of me feels a wry kind of wistfulness, though, when I think how he doesn’t know the difference. He doesn’t know life could have been any different. It’s what he was wired to expect, it’s what he got, and so it’s like the sky being blue or sea level air pressure being 14.7 pounds per square inch. Just totally taken for granted to the point of being invisible.
And then when he turns into a whiny drama king because I simply want to put him in a crib for a nap or in another safe place so I can feed my damn self, I can think, “Dude, really?” I’m more or less an attachment parent, and I want to foster as much security as I can, which in the end I believe will lead to independence as well as inter-connectedness. I don’t think babies can be spoiled exactly, and I appreciate that my guy feels secure enough to be vocal about what he wants. And I don’t see any appealing alternatives. I do let Ali cry sometimes (for a matter of a couple minutes at a time, usually in his crib when I really need to set him down in a safe place for just a little while), but he looks so frightened and lost, I don’t think I could bear to let him “cry it out,” meaning cry until he had nothing left and then passed out from sheer exhaustion, and chalk it up to a victory in a battle of wills. Unless there was a seriously compelling need to do that, it’s not something I want to do.
But I do sometimes want to say, “Hey, man, I’m there for you more or less 24/7. Do you really think I’m abandoning you if I set you down for three minutes? Can you give me just a little more credit than that?”
I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that when babies are “giving you a hard time,” that’s not really what they’re doing. What they’re doing is having a hard time for a reason you just don’t understand yet. It’s so frustrating not understanding, though. I have a feeling there is a simple fix in there somewhere. I can’t wait ’til that kid can talk. I’m sure he can’t wait, either. The next book on my list is about baby sign language.
Meanwhile our dining room table and chairs arrived, and the high chair fits with it perfectly. It feels so civilized sitting down to an actual table to eat with a baby watching us and playing in his chair. Not eating yet, just joining the table so far with either a spoon or some little plastic cups to play with. We did try to give him one bit of zucchini, but he immediately dropped it in his lap and forgot about it. Still not quite ready for solids, but soon enough he’ll be smushing carrots in his hair…