“I want to go for a drive,” J says one night in a sad voice, “I want to go to somebody else’s house.” Hearing this, I experience an internal jab of pain, a quick splice, and then guilt—a voice telling me that I am not enough—not enough patience, not enough love, not enough provider of bedtime stories. Logically, I know this is not true, that I am a good mama, but feelings (and exhaustion) are hard to argue with. So I take a deep breath and ask his dad to take over bedtime routine, which makes me feel thankful but also defeated.
To him, naptime is also an outrage. It makes him so angry he could wipe a booger on me, and in a fit of rage, he digs one out of his nose—with a determined pointer finger—for this exact purpose. I duck and he nails Bear instead. “I want to wipe it on you!” he screams. He never protests naptime at school, but saves it all for mama—all that angst and injustices that result from living life—firing them at his most trusted source to see if she still stands, testing to see if all these feelings can possibly be contained. “Mama is the boss,” I say, doing my best to stay calm, “and it is still NAPTIME.”
He comes home from preschool and yells, “Poopsie dang-dang!” laughing hysterically at this new, made-up phrase he now repeats over and over. My husband and I look at the expression on his face and can’t stop laughing either. He says things like, “What the hecky-doodle?” and “I’m a happy little moving truck.” He asks in a curious voice, “Is the sun going to go down?” and “What happens if you want to brush your feathers?” I feel a squeeze of pride in my chest when he says, “no, thanks,” “yes please”—and, in an incredibly sweet voice, “No prob, mom,” when I ask him to clear his plate.
On Saturday morning, after a long, busy workweek of doing our thing, he wants to carry the mail key. It’s cold outside, the mailboxes are too short of a walk to bother with jackets, and he’s in sock feet so I pick him up. As he snuggles into my arms, I feel a floating sensation—the warmth and rarity of holding him now—so big and capable of getting himself around so much of the world without me. As he grows up, life takes him further away, but brings him back, in moments like this, tiny slices—glued together by warmth, arms so light around my neck, his breath like little puffs of smoke into the sky. “I love you,” I say, as if breaking out of a trance, and he says, “I love you too, mama.”
I learn the most from J this week (memories swirling in slightly less randomness) the night he insists on joining me in a yoga workout video. As I attempt to follow the instructors on screen, an immediate calm comes over him as he sets about the room in his own strange routine, moving his little arms and legs as if under water. I have never seen him like this, and he continues for quite a while, with steady, silent, self-assured purpose, occasionally imitating my loud, pranayama breathing. When it is time for Child’s Pose and I tuck my legs underneath me, forehead pressed to the mat, he suddenly appears beside me and lovingly runs his hand along my spine—as if settling some inner waves that reach to the turbulence of the universe, bringing it all together in one quiet moment, him the spiritual teacher, and me, the student.