My sweet little boy is soooo sick today, and we have been passing the time hanging out and finding interesting ways to pass the time.. He and I have a very unique and powerful bond. we are connected in ways that seem different than the ways in which many mother child bonds are often described by others. In no way am I saying we are MORE connected, just bonded and connected differently. Since reuniting with him three months ago, after a 6 month seperation, I have allowed him to set the pace of reconnecting, allowed him to choose what kind of comfort and affection he wants from me, and when I am welcome to offer it to him.
My son thinks like me, he is out of the box like me, he is intuitive and sensitive like me, and he will not do anything…and I mean anything…unless doing so makes sense to him. He has to have the “reason” the “why” or “why not” needs to click, and while getting him to this point of “Ohhhh! Now it makes sense” can be challenging (or impossible…when you’re up against the logic of a 3yr old), once this light goes on, once he realizes why (oh…and you can’t bullshit him into thinking something is a good idea when he has a logical argument as to why it is not) doing something differently is better than doing it the way he has been doing it, that’s it. That’s all that it takes. He tells me when he is tired, goes to bed without a fuss, eats when he’s hungry, and goes about his day conducting himself in a manner that makes sense to him.
He is not a defiant child, he is not oppositional in the usual way children his age often are, he doesn’t do something or not do something because the opposite is expected of him, and unlike most children, my son does not mimic. See Mommy pick up toys? So. See Mommy eat with a spoon? So. See Mommy play with a doll? So. Because to him, and I swear this is what’s going on inside of his head, why in the world would “I pick up toys when they are just fine where they are? Why in the world would I eat with a spoon when eating with my fingers is sooo much more efficient? Why in the world would I give a FAKE bottle to a FAKE little person and think that it is fun? Why in the world can I NOT color on the white walls, when coloring on the white dry erase board is ok? Why in the world am I NOT allowed to have unlimited access to ALL water fountains, ponds, and sprinklers, when I have unlimited access to some? Why in the world can’t I go and examine the bumpers, and wheels, and headlights of every vehicle parked in the driveway around the block, ANY TIME I WANT, when I can examine your car mom, and Grandmas car, and Aunt Jodee car pretty much any time I want? And I’m like…Ummm…because you just can’t…because I said no?
But before I even go any further with that bound to fail argument, I pause for a moment….and I look at this amazingly beautiful brilliant little boy, this child who manages to present these logical arguments that I have to actually think about to refute, this little boy who saved me, who changed me, who woke me up and made me the woman I am today, the woman I am striving to become, the little boy who inspires me, who awes me, who challenges me, whose mind will always be thought of by most as “different” or “odd,” but who is quite possibly, the most independently quirky brilliant child I have ever known. My son will not hug me, or anyone for that matter, just because he is supposed to. He doesn’t give kisses because he is asked, or sit on a lap because he is called. He does these things all as a result of his own free will, and who he chooses to give a kiss, or a hug, or sit next to, is perhaps the most magical thing of all. He senses the world in a way unlike any child I have ever known.
He sees things, and smells things, and touches things, and hears things, and tastes things, many times he does all of these things to one object, one leaf, one piece of food, one toy, before he gives his approval thumbs up or disapproval thumbs down, the moment of decision, is always very definitive and final to him.
I knew the moment I discovered I was pregnant, that my child was a boy, and that his name was Henry. He was named after my beloved Gentleman Cat, William Henry Harrison, who turned 20 the year that my son was born. I remember thinking how I could not imagine not “knowing” him all these 9 months, how mothers were able to actually be surprised by the sex of their child at birth, and how in moments of pregnancy freak out and doubt, when I would find myself pondering “what if this child is a girl?!?!?!?” I seriously thought that if I heard the words “CONGRATS IT’S A GIRL” coming out of my doctors mouth, if this were to be the case, that it would be proof that I was going to be THE “worst most out of touch where the hell are those motherly instincts I am not cut out to raise a child my kid was doomed” kind of mother, and there were moments of utter terror as I would play out this worst case scenario in my head.
I never had regular timed contractions during my labor, they just came and went when they pleased. I never went into natural labor, Henry was fine with keeping the status quo 2 weeks after his scheduled due date, and after 36 hours of trying to bring this “I’m in no hurry why are you” child into this world, on the VERY last chance before being hauled off to the surgeon, I remember this surreal moment when, completely exhausted and beyond delirious I said:
“Henry James…we gotta work together here, and figure out a way to get you out. You see I have managed to come through this whole HOLY SHIT I AM PREGNANT AT 34…SURPRISE! adventure without one stretch mark, with a healthy amount of gained weight, and if your stubbornness is the reason for that scar, if I have to take care of you, 2 dogs, 2 cats, in an apartment with stairs, NO family, and the worlds most USELESS AND CREEPY mother in law in the entire world, we will not be off to the best start and I REALLY need you to COME OUT!” And at the 4 hour push limit mark, on the third and very last allowed vacuum suction cup maneuver, out came this little man and I puked and pretty much passed out.
And the first words that I remember anyone saying to me were these: “OMG Natalie…he looks exactly like you.” From this moment on I would spend the next 2 years listening to people try and come up with traits he shared with his father, and watching him grow and thinking to myself, “It’s a good thing there’s no question as to my activities around the time this little man came to be. because there is not one thing in my child that reminds me of anyone else but me.”
He has never slept a night in the same bed with me, always insisting on his own space.He refused to conform to the “schedule” everyone told me I was supposed to create for him, and after 4 months of RANDOM charts and notes of feeding times and nap times, I finally said to myself “This little boy marches to the beat of a different drummer…his own drummer…and as his mother, I must honor that.” So begin the journey of me and my little boy.
He has never not seen holding hands with me, or anyone else, as remotely necessary, until he wanted to learn how to walk up and down stairs. He has never been scolded for pulling the cat’s tail, or chasing the dog. In fact, not once in his entire life, have I or anyone else, had to show him or teach him, how to treat animals, or discipline him for being out of line or teasing them while interacting with them outside of the house.
He naturally had the gift of self soothing from the moment he was born, and slept in a zippered full body swaddle called “swoombie” until he had worn through every make, model, and size, complemented by a binky in his mouth, and he never seemed to find reason to cause a fuss or make a sound, until it was time to eat or be placed in his crib to go to sleep.
He would spend hours and hours in his swing, watching the little bunnies and lambs turn round and round above his head, and managed to wear out the motors in 3 swings before becoming to heavy for them to swing him anymore. My son never had an interest in the kind of children’s shows other parents of kids his age were raving about…no Sesame Street, no Teletubbies, he found nothing interesting in the short song and dance displays these shows would give to him. Instead, Henry preferred the full length Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks Movies, with The Lion King. Finding Nemo, The Lorax, being among the ones he would want to watch over and over and over again. As soon as he began to walk, he would anticipate the scary, or sad, or emotionally charged parts of these movies, and would get up from wherever he was sitting, run into the hallway, place his hands over his ears, peek around the corner and watch the specific scene from a distance, and show genuine concern for the characters experiencing hardship, sadness, grief, or danger. Just last week he came out of his bedroom, tears running down his cheeks, and when I quickly went to see what had happened to him, I found him crying during the part in Disney’s “Tarzan” where Tarzan and the Gorillas are being captured and taken away on a ship.
My son can spend all day reveling in the feeling of crushing dried leaves between his index finger and his thumb. When we go to the library he spends all of his time studying the DVS cases, or sitting in the middle of the Adult Geography and Nature section with book upon book filled with colorful maps, images of sharks, drawings of dinosaurs, sketches of fire trucks and police cars, and has no interest whatsoever in the seemingly fascinating Children’s Book section TO EVERY CHILD BUT MINE. On Sundays he takes all of the colorful coupon ads out of the newspaper, and sits for hours cross-legged in a very studious and captivated manner, “reading” them like most adults do while they wake up with their early morning coffee. He will eat the same thing for a week, and absolutely under no circumstances whatsoever, eat that same thing a few days later when he finds the texture or smell or flavor not to his liking, and trust me when I say…You will not get him to eat it again. Only time it makes sense for him to eat with a spoon, is when he likes the flavor of Ice Cream in the bowl, and the option of eating it with his hands has been ruled out. You cannot delay this child’s bedtime. Should you try, you will get to witness the complete and total loss of ability to emotionally and physically regulate himself, which has earned him the nickname of “drunken sailor” on more than one occasion.
I was never a woman who thought much about, or felt a need to become a mother, and would have been fine without having this unexpected not supposed to be possible blessing come into my life. I also would have continued living a life without passion, without purpose, without any answers as to why my life consisted of unhealthy patterns, relationships with people who disrespected my worth, a series of failed to meet expectations that made me lose faith in myself, in my future, and year after year I watched myself slipping into a lonely existence of isolation, of being diagnosed with this mental illness or that one by professionals who managed to numb my brain to the point that I lost the gift of knowing what it is like to genuinely “feel.” My son changed all that. I was in no place to be a mother at the time, and I knew that. I remember one thought repeating itself over and over in my mind as I faced the most momentous decision of my life, something I shared with his father, words that would end up proving their truth beyond anything I could have expected.
Who a woman (or a man) is when he or she begins this journey of becoming a mother or father, was never as important to me as who that woman or man could and would become once that decision was made that a child of their creation, would be born to them, and into this world. I knew that for me to choose motherhood would require me to take a very close look at myself, at my life, at my choices, at what I had to offer a child, and why this most sacred responsibility would be one that I would be worthy of and capable of to take on. My child could change the world, create ideas which would serve to better the lives of all humanity. My child’s mere existence, could set in motion Universally cosmic shifts that could reverberate for generations to come. My child could also destroy the world, create ideas which would serve to create suffering and pain in the lives of humanity. My child’s mere existence, could set in motion Universally cosmic shifts that could reverberate for generations to come.
How could I even begin to understand what bringing life into this world, life created with the chance of my good genes or my bad genes, or genes I am not even aware of, truly means? And with all of these unknowns, and all of the (in my humble opinion) beyond selfish and morally wrong reasons many women (or men) choose to have children these days, there is only one way that I can live with myself, live with a sense of honor as the mother of my child, and that was for me to finally begin the process of finding out what kind of person I truly was. Because to me, the measure of a person can be defined by the kind of parent they choose to become, the person who know what this life they have created means, and who will face who they were, what they have done, and choose to be brave.
They will become the kind of parent they know they must be, for they understand that every child deserves a parent who dared to be brave, who dared to become fearless, who dared to fight all of these gut wrenching and honorable battles one by one, because of having a child does not change you, does not make you rethink everything you thought was true, does not make you wake the fuck up and face things that you have been running away from for years, if having a child does not create within you the desire to become who you know you can and need to be, I am not sure anything will. Which to me…would mean that I am ok with fucking up my life and not changing my life and if MY life is all I have to fuck up and not change, well then I guess that is how it will be.
My son saved me from myself. He is the source of my creativity, my passion, my belief that I deserve, as he deserves, a life lived with truth, with humility, with gratitude, with tolerance, with compassion, with love, and if that kind of life cannot be lived by me, lived to show my child and teach my child what it means to make life matter, perhaps is the true measurement of my worth as a human being.
I am flawed. I make mistakes. I am far, far, from being perfect at anything, let alone being a mother. But when Henry’s life became eternally intertwined with mine, when his actions and thoughts and choices would all somehow have a connection to how he was raised and what he has learned from me, all that really matters, all that I can really hope to live up to, is being a mother, living a life, that my son can be and will be proud of. I choose to live this way for me…I choose to live this way for him, and for this beautifully brilliant marches to the beat of his own drummer fascinatingly odd little boy…I am blessed.