“H, you have a beautiful heart.”
It is bedtime, and he is drifting in and out of sleep, telling me how beautiful and satisfying the world is, how wonderful it is that I am the mama, that grandma is the grandma, that papi is the papi. The world is like a rose, he tells me. No, the world IS a rose. Even one grain of pollen is so beautiful. If there were only one grain of pollen, it would contain beauty and satisfaction enough for him.
“How do you know my heart is beautiful when you can’t see it?”
“Because I can hear the words that come out of your mouth,” I tell him, gently touching his lips.
“The words do not come from my heart.”
“Where do the words come from?”
“Well, partly they come from my lungs.”
He rubs his torso, showing me.
“You have beautiful lungs then.”
This he seems to accept. I rub his back until he is asleep, letting each caress wrap me ever more warmly in the beautiful way he sees the world.
“What would you like?” he asks me. “How about you hold two jewels?”
“Well, I was going to ask for world peace, but yes, I will hold two jewels,” I reply.
He hands me two of the many flat glass marbles used for loose parts play that are scattered throughout the house.
“What is world peace?” he asks.
“That is a very good question, sweets.”
“How do we get it?”
“We could start by being kind to other people,” I suggest.
Somehow this does not sit right with him. “But that’s not world peace!” he protests.
“No,” I acknowledge, “but it’s a start.”
He turns his attention back to banging a stick on the floor, distracted entirely from the idea of world peace when the play dough he had wrapped around the top of the stick falls off. Does he know intuitively that our current lack of world peace is a complex problem not easily solved through short conversations in walk in closets?
I don’t know. I can tell, though, that he is leading me back to play, an area in which he is expert, and I go willingly with him.
We will revisit the idea of world peace another day.
H is holding up a roll of orange tape to his ear. I can hear only his side of the conversation.
“I’m with mama,” he says.
There’s a long pause.
“Yeah. It’s not so entirely sane.”
He pauses again.
And that pretty much sums things up in our house.
“I’m going to fight, fight, fight.”
He’s sitting in a cooler waving a roasting fork at me.
“You are?” I ask.
“Yes. Fight, fight, fight. I’m fighting you.”
“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” I tell him.
“What does that mean?”
“It means I love people, I don’t fight them.”
“Well, I’m a fighter. I fight people. And animals. I fight all animals.”
He keeps waving the roasting fork.
This isn’t the first time my 80s pop culture references have been lost on him.
“You know mama, I have to tell you,” he said, and I braced myself to hear how he never wants to brush teeth not ever and least of all right now, because we were at that point in our program and resistance is de rigueur, but instead he continued, “ I lost my job so I need your job, but we can share.”
And we were back on track. Sometimes all it takes is a non sequitur to lighten the mood during teeth brushing, and a lightened mood can make all the difference.
“H, do you think you’ll be nursing when you go to college?” My tone is playful and light.
The college thing gets thrown around in jest in some of my parenting support groups sometimes. To allay fears that early bed sharing will become a forever sleeping arrangement: “Oh, don’t worry, he won’t be driving home every night to sleep in your bed after he’s gone off to college.” In riposte to judgment-tinged questions about just how long a mother is planning on breastfeeding her baby: “Oh, probably until she goes to college.” Or in self-mocking half jest about how long one plans to keep a child rear facing in a car seat: “AT LEAST until he goes to college!” And so on.
H unlatches to ask, “Where is college?”
This is a direction I hadn’t envisioned the conversation taking, but of course it’s going there. College is a concept that he’s not yet encountered at age 3.5.
“It’s a place you can go to learn things if you want to.”
He considers this for a moment.
“I want to go there sometime with you,” he says, then re-latches without ceremony.
“Okay. We can do that,” I say. “I would love to do that sometime with you.”
And so my question remains unanswered, at least by him, but it’s not a question that I needed him to answer anyway. I am not certain about how long he will continue to breastfeed, but I am certain that he will be done long before he goes to college. If you ask me though and I sense an agenda, I just might suggest it. I will say it playfully, as a way of keeping things light. I will smile, you might smile, and H will go on to breastfeed for as long as it works for both of us. And someday long after that, he might go away to college.
H popped up, zero to sixty upon waking, and asked, “What are we doing this morning?”
“We’re going to feed the fish,” I told him.
“NO!” he shouted. “I am in no mood for it!”
Later, on our way home from feeding the fish, an outing he went on quite willingly, he told me it was a beautiful day to get some fresh air. And that he had a great time.
This is age three.
“I do not want to rest!”
“Okay. You don’t have to. We’ll just have milk.”
We crawled in to bed, and it took him less than five minutes of milk to fall asleep for what turned out to be a two and a half hour nap.
“Winthrop* asked what I was doing,” he said upon waking up, then without pausing, “Find Grandma!”
“How was your nap?” Grandma asked.
“I did not have a nap! Just milk!”
Sleep resistance turned sleep denial.
*H’s stuffed zebra.
“I love everyone, like grandma and you and papi and me. I love me!” His voice was pure, joyful, sincere.
If we can get through his adolescence with this level of regard for self and others intact, I will consider that a very happy thing.
“What are some things you can do when you are sad?” I ask H.
“Well, um, I can probably just be sad.”
This is wisdom that slips in and out of my grasp. May he have a firmer hold on it as he grows than I do.