Leaving babyhood

My little man. He is such a moment of transition. His babyhood clings to him, but he’s really turning into such a little person. He’s in the throes of the terrible two behaviors – tantrums, screaming, falling apart when he doesn’t get his way. Stubborn refusal to do what I ask of him, staring me down while blatantly flouting a rule, and generally being difficult: these are all central behaviors right now. I swear it’s as though he decided he was going to make up for being a super mellow baby for his first two years. Some days it feels as though he spends a solid 9 or 10 hours a day screaming and yelling (and the other 14 or 15 he is usually sleeping).

But at the same time he’s such a downright little love. He is quick to say, “I love you, mummy” and is always eager for a hug and a kiss. Sometimes I go into his room before I go to bed and lift him out of his crib (cage, fine) and rock with him in the rocking chair, and he curls sleepily into my arms, resting his blond head on my shoulder and being so calm and content I often find myself crying. The tenderness in those moments is heartbreaking because I know its time is running out. The last vestiges of babyhood in Whit are fading away fast, and this time in my life is coming to an end.

The combination of Whit’s occasional warmth and gentleness with his fundamental boy-hood – the throwing-hitting-climbing-jumping that everybody told me would be there (and is) represents the kind of man I aspire to raise. My relationship with Grace, so thoroughly documented and overanalyzed in this blog, is complex, intense, full of identification and the impossible-to-untangle wishes I have for both her and my child self. Whit, however, brings a different set of challenges and joys to the emotional table. Chief among these is the deep sense of responsibility I feel to raise a truly good man – a man who will engage intellectually and ethically with the world, who won’t be afraid of his own strength and will in fact cultivate it, and who will respect women as both equal to and different from himself.

A more articulate summary of what I’m talking about:

“I think a lot about the man Charlie will become … I can’t seem to get used to the fact that one day I’ll be the mother to a man, and that somewhere within that man will be the wild little boy who barreled through the house with a dump truck, and the tender boy who pretended to nurse his dolls. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of being the mother of a boy: the chance to plant something gentle in his soul, to give the future a small gift – a man who can be as loving as he is strong.” – Jody Mace

Whit turns two

So, Whit is two. Seems like yesterday we were at Verrill Farm at Grace’s very elaborate second birthday party. Poor Whit had to make do with Bread & Circus cupcakes and a few dear friends in the kitchen. Company was excellent, the planning a little less detailed than Grace’s bash. It’s amazing how differently I feel about them at age two. At two Grace felt like a little person – I re-read yesterday the letter I wrote to her on her second birthday, and she was clearly such a little personality already. Whit is clearly himself, of course, but he’s just so much less fully formed. I’m sure at least half of this is my own self wanting to keep my last baby a baby, and it may also be a boy/girl thing … it’s certainly driven in large part by how much less verbal he is than she was. But I still think of him as my baby – I still call him that, I still carry him most of the time, I seem unready for him to be launched into the life of his own independent childhood! I’m not aware of this unreadiness, by the way, intellectually, but when I reflect on the way I treat him, that is the emotion that seems to be manifest. It also seems odd to think that at Grace’s birthday I was six months pregnant with Whit – it’s hard to imagine being pregnant now.
Well, I guess it’s official: no more babies in the Mead-Russell house. It’s a cliche and it’s also powerfully true: the days are long, and the years are short.