The physicality of them


Every night, when I put Grace and Whit to bed, I whisper, “I’ll see you in the morning.”  That sentence is, as I wrote a few months ago, the distillation of parenthood.  I will be here in the morning.  You can go to sleep, safe, sound, trusting.  I’m not the only mother who finds bedtime, and the hushed hours after the children go to sleep, to be among the sweetest parts of the parenting day.  If I search my archives for bedtime posts, pages and pages come up.  Good night, Whit is among my favorites; I can’t read it without crying.  That’s especially true now, as I read through the scrim of years, with the awareness of all that has irrevocably changed.

Often, I go back in to see Grace and Whit before I go to sleep.  And sometimes I sit next to them on their beds, watching their sleeping faces, observing the shadows that their eyelashes cast across their cheeks.  Sometimes I put my hand on their chests, feeling their breath rise and fall.  There is a tangible grace in the rooms of my sleeping children, a magic that hovers in the dim, nightlight-lit air.

I love these moments, when I watch them, listening to the quiet of the room, the soft thrum of their breathing.  I stare at the length of their bodies under the covers, tumbling down the hall of mirrors that is my memory, remembering their baby selves in their cribs in these very same rooms.  It is such a cliche, but many cliches grow out of truth, don’t they?  How did these children, simultaneously sturdy and fragile, long and angular and lean, come out of my body?  Where did my babies go?

The expanse of Whit’s back, as he stands up to his ankles in the ocean, or the shadows Grace’s eyelashes cast on her cheeks when she’s looking down, reading: these are as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror.  They came from me and they are still intimately known; this is the private geography of motherhood.

As I write this I’m away from Grace and Whit, and I’m heading home today.  I can close my eyes and imagine their bodies barrelling into mine when I walk in the door, the smiling faces and mile-a-minute talking and hugs.  The hug that will remind me that Grace’s head now falls pretty close to right under my chin, and that Whit is the height I still delusionally think that his sister is.  And tonight, you can be sure, after I tuck them in, I’ll go back into their dusky rooms to watch them sleep, to be reminded of their beating hearts and breathing lungs, of their sturdy and fragile bodies, of them.  My daughter and my son.


27 thoughts on “The physicality of them”

  1. I know it’s not really necessary to say these words, but: Hold onto those moments as long as you can. I’d give a lot to have them back, to return to a time when parenting was much simpler than it is now. I miss the physicality of my children. I miss the regular touch, the physical connection that is part of the emotional. The business of breaking away–so necessary, so important for me to let happen–it is hard. Especially today.

  2. This is beautiful, Lindsey. Your words have precisely captured a treasured experience of motherhood. I especially love these lines: “There is a tangible grace in the rooms of my sleeping children, a magic that hovers in the dim, nightlight-lit air.” And “They came from me and they are still intimately known; this is the private geography of motherhood.” Thank you for putting words to a precious experience and allowing me to reflect upon it and appreciate it even more. I look forward to catching up on all of the wonderful posts you have written. XO

  3. So beautiful, Lindsey, as always. This one particularly struck me because I feel so in awe, every day, of my child’s body. His existence. How does somebody SO PERFECT exist?! (Of course, I don’t just mean my child – they’re all perfect. They’re all just so quintessentially babies, or toddlers, or little living, breathing PEOPLE. It’s really kind of amazing).

    I’m rambling. I go in all the time and watch my little one sleep. It’s one of my absolutely favorite things about momhood.

  4. I totally know what you mean. I wrote a whole essay about being gutted when I noticed a freckle on my son’s perfect back – it was the realization that he wasn’t perfect, that life was making its mark on him. Then my daughter broke a bone and all bets were off!!

  5. I am doing my best to hold on – but they still slip through my fingers. I know you know the frustration and the feeling! xo

  6. Beautifully said, Lindsey. You’ll always remember this feeling, and as it relates to so many stages of their childhood and youth. As a matter of fact, last Christmas when my boys were home, my youngest snuck off from the group to catch a quick nap before our family dinner. When I went to wake him, I must have stood over his bed for at least 10 minutes remembering how he looked as a wee boy fast asleep, feeling just as amazed seeing his sleeping face as a young man.

  7. Just adding my voice to the rest saying that this is beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes and perfectly balanced the ever so slight irritation arising as my four year old is trys to climb all over me as I type this. Motherhood = balance! Thanks Lindsey.

  8. I love this post. I feel the same way, marveling at their physical beings, at how sometimes it feels like I conjured them. I think of this especially often after Dec. 14.

  9. I can still see him – especially him, somehow – as the baby he was when I look at his sleeping face. Sigh. xox

  10. Yes. Oh, yes. I wrote about their physicality right after Newtown, too. About the sheer there-ness of them. And what an astonishing, taken-for-granted gift it is.

  11. I just love this post. Every night I ‘check’ on my kids before I go to bed and its my time to hit the reset button. No matter the trials of the day, looking at them so peaceful and so still(!), I am reminded of just how sweet motherhood can be.

  12. I love this line — “this is the private geography of motherhood.” There is so much, wrapped up, in memory and the day-to-day of being there. Lovely.

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