Monday, June 9, 2008

Kicking and Screaming

No, not Sophia. I have yet to see her kick and scream. I mean me.

I imagine most mothers would be thrilled to watch their child careen through her developmental milestones. And don’t get me wrong. I am one of them. I feel enormous pride as I watch her, at six months, breakdance over to her toy box, pull up to a standing position, lean over the edge and grab a talking plush head (who gave us THAT?). She grins toothlessly, triumphantly, and whips it around mercilessly as it protests (Whee! Achoo! Faceplant!).

I kneel behind her, spotting. I am amazed at her strength. But at the same time I am achingly sad, cognizant of the breakneck speed with which she is growing up. Other mothers with older babies pick her up and exclaim over how tiny and light she is. But she feels pretty heavy to me. One mother sniffed her head and sighed, "she still smells like a baby. My baby lost that smell." I sniffed her child and indeed, the baby smelled grown up. Now, I sniff Sophie’s head, paranoid that her powdery newness will have worn off and all that will be left is hair.

You see, I know Sophie is like me. Or, rather, the way I was. Not content to be a child. Frustrated with the lack of power. Anxious to join the mysterious world of adults: To walk like them, talk like them, be like them. I wished my childhood away. At the time, it seemed to drag on forever. I felt imprisoned. And then suddenly it was over. Now I want to slow down time. No. I want it to stand still. I want to live in this moment forever. Me and my baby.

To make myself feel worse, I put on the Putumayo Dreamland album that we played over and over again during the first days that we had her home. I am transported back to that time, when there was no division between night and day—and time was measured in feeding intervals. When I was in too much pain to sit. Too much pain to stand. When Sophia was either sleeping or clinging to me, uncoordinated and near blind. When we had to take her clothes off, wipe her with a wet washcloth, and finally move her little limbs through a series of calisthenics as my mother chanted, ex-er-cise,ex-er-cise, babies need their ex-er-cise and she still wouldn’t wake for a feeding.

I weep, longing for the most difficult days of my life

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