He was just a small boy on a swing.
A boy like any other boy on a swing like any other swing on a day like any other day. Nothing remarkable. Nothing special. Just a boy. One very small boy.
So why was I crying? It started with his feet. You see, his legs were too short to touch the ground which left his Spiderman-clad feet swinging ineffectively in the air. The swing would not obey his impotent commands and twisted gently in the breeze, thwarting his dreams of touching tree branches. Of flying. Of falling back to earth to be caught at the last second and jerked upward again until the sun shone full in his face and the laughter escaped his throat. But he couldn’t kick off and even if he were to somehow overcome the initial inertia binding him to the earth, he hadn’t learned how to pump his wee legs yet and so would be quickly righted by gravity.
He called out for someone to push him but his voice had no sense of urgency, almost as if it were done merely out of habit and not because he thought anyone could hear him. He was not altogether wrong. Up until that very second nobody could hear him.
In one sharp moment my world of vision-less words collided with his world of wordless visions. He was calling for me. His tiny, tinny voice which rasps my exhaustion-honed nerves more than I’d like to admit, finally pierced the swirling cloud of words and ideas that cushion me so tightly that small things like appointments and friends’ birthdays and dinner menus aren’t merely forgotten but are actively not remembered. Things like small boys.
Three things I learned outside today:
1. There is half of a dead rabbit in our backyard. Just the bottom half, in case you are curious. Discovering that there is a wild raptor in our suburban trees is oddly thrilling. Also: I have no good answer to “Why that rabbit has no face, mommy?” other than the truth: A bird ate it off. That feels wrong.
2. My baby has light auburn, almost strawberry blond, hair and in the sunshine her eyes look like two sapphires. Nobody in our immediate family has light hair or blue eyes. She is a beautiful alien creature that I know less about than I thought I did.
3. A six-year-old and a seven-year-old will give up their video games to poke sticks in the mud if I let them take off their shoes. Even though it is 60 degrees cold outside. Mud can only be appreciated with bare toes.
People have been telling me ever since I had children to enjoy this time now while they are young because it passes so very quickly, that the magic that enlivens Velveteen Rabbits and vanquishes dragons and allows mommy kisses to heal wounds will disappear like so many Lite Brite pieces on Christmas morning. I thought I understood what they meant. The problem with that advice – besides the fact I find the sharp little Lite Brite pieces every time I sit down on our pee-perfumed couch – is that it often comes from a place of forgetful regret. These advice-givers are not pacing the floors at 3 a.m. with my inconsolable, colicky infant and chunky vomit crusted on the inside of their bra. These random people in the grocery store are not humiliated when my son drops trou in the middle of a crowded amusement park to relieve himself on a plastic tree. These elderly people were not there the day my son climbed out of his car seat, over the back of my chair, jumped on my head and tried to claw my eyes out while I was driving down the freeway because – and I’m serious – I wouldn’t buy him Chinese food for lunch at the mall food court. But most of all these Further Along Parents aren’t there for the daily grind of meals and baths and bedtimes and tantrums and the relentless around-the-clock stream of demands. Children are black holes of need. Perhaps they have forgotten this.
Admission: Having young children is the boot camp of parenthood. At least it is for me. I’m not proud to confess this. I know it isn’t this way for all mothers. But there it is. Which isn’t to say I don’t love my children. I love them with a ferocity that surprises, stupefies and even frightens me. As their mother, I am the one in charge of this great balancing act of supply and demand – a skill that I am not very good at yet. Perhaps I will never learn to manage both my selfish desire to read and write until I am sated, with their desire to be sated by me. Yet my shortcomings as a mother should not punish them. This neediness is not their fault.
Today my son needed a push. So he could fly.
I dream of flying.
Post Script: Today is the day I drop down to three days a week of blogging, folks. Maybe less if there are more swings that need pushing. You will also see a lot less of me around the ‘net. This has been a long time coming. I’ve been hanging on by my fingernails since the Jelly Bean has been born. Why? When I first started blogging, I read somewhere (Where? Who knows where thoughts come from, Joe?) that the cardinal rule for a good blog is that you must post something every day. I don’t know if that’s true. All I know is I can’t do it anymore. Some of you, I imagine – perhaps vainly – will be disappointed. Others will probably be relieved – one less blog to hit on the comment rounds. Either way this feels like failure to me. I’m a girl that likes to do everything 100% or nothing and I’m tempted to just walk away. Two things hold me back: 1) I can’t stop writing, even if I wanted to. 2) I love you guys too much. It’s a very selfish thing really but reading your comments and sharing your lives through e-mails and your blogs has been one of the great privileges of my life. I don’t want to lose you. So I’m going to try this thing called moderation. Other bloggers have done it and survived. Wish me luck.
Written By Charlotte Hilton Andersen for http://thegreatfitnessexperiment.blogspot.com only! Not to be re-published without permission.