He began as a small seed, bedding down in the lining of a wall, flooding my body with hormones within days of the beginning of his life. It happens quickly, the way a baby takes up space, filling the uterus, pushing its walls out and above the pelvic rim, into the abdominal cavity, shoving organs out of the way, legs and arms beating the drum of his coming arrival. Before I ever had to make room for a baby in my life, I had to make room for him in my body, and I was given no choice in that matter. He just took over.
I wish I listened to what my body was doing for those nine months because it would have better prepared me for the first few months of Small One’s life. Children take up space, real physical and emotional space, and I can happily throw my heart, time and plans open and submit to this takeover or fight it the whole way.
For the first few months, I kept trying to have the same life I had before Small One existed. Frequent trips out, complicated cooking, lots of time online until I discovered that I was just trying to escape facing the deepest truth about motherhood – loving my child means sacrifice for me. It means my life has to change.
I’m not sure where these ideas came from . I suppose on one side there are people who say that we can’t lose our identity to our children, we can’t let them sideline our careers and plans. But I can’t say that the Christian subculture I came from gave me a better set of ideas – don’t be a child-centered family, I could take my children anywhere, she told me, they were so well behaved, children need to know that they aren’t the most important thing in your life, your marriage is more important of course.
So here I am, almost one-and-a-half years later and finding myself somewhere in this middle ground of making room for him, my son who comes alive with joy when I play hide and seek or run after him or growl at him during meal times.
I made room for him physically through breastfeeding, even when it was inconvenient for me, even though it took an emotional and physical toll that at times were too much to bear, but I made room for him in my body. I make room for him physically now through generous cuddles, rough and tumble play, and carrying him even though he’s getting older and heavier.
I make room for him in our home by letting him open drawers and take out things (that eventually he has to return), by having few places and things that are “no no nos,” by giving him a space of his own for creation, reading and play.
I make room for him in my schedule by playing to his strengths – not many trips out to shops and meetings, lots of time in the park, time out of the stroller, walking while holding my hand, meandering wherever he wants in the park, picking up leaves. I keep my days as simple as possible so that when he is awake, we spend our time together. I have one chore per day (laundry on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, admin on Wednesday, and so on) plus our daily meals and trips to the grocery store for produce. I have days for the computer and days off, I blog, I check email, we Skype with family, I read and that is basically it.
I have tried to simplify my life as much as possible because it gives me freedom to enjoy my days with my son. He’s involved in most of my home life. He washes the dishes with me, sweeps the floor with me, unloads the washer and loads the dryer. All of these tasks happen more slowly than it would if I did not have my little helper, but I make room in my day, in my schedule for it because this is the best way to teach my son the good nature of work and to include him in my life.
I have not trained Small One to be good in public, to sit quietly while I chat with a friend and drink a coffee, to “behave” in church. When I want to go out, I time it so that Husband is home or I get a babysitter. Small One and I do go out and sit in cafes, sometimes with friends, but these outings happen twice a month or so. It is not our norm. Why? Because in my inching daily toward knowing and understanding him better, I do not believe that these are the things that he loves, and so I make room in my life, I make allowance for that, not because I want my life to rotate around my son’s but because I love him and desire to create an atmosphere for him where he can thrive.
Am I losing some things because I have chosen to spend this season of my life this way? Obviously, the answer is yes, and I don’t need to write a list because most of you can guess what those things are. But here is my bottom line. These years with Small One are few and precious, and I will not miss a moment of it because I need to have a cleaner apartment, more loads of laundry finished and have “my life” on “my schedule” in “my time.” No. I have made the decision to radically slow my life down to make room for him, and it gives me the daily freedom to enjoy him, to enjoy being a mother and to enjoy this season of life.