I’m driving down a country road heading to pick up my big boy Jonah from school. I notice that the fields—blanketed in white for many months—are now patterned like a patchwork quilt or a checker board, the snow only a fraction of the landscape. I am donning a spring green shirt, light in weight and with white dots peppered throughout like so many Easter eggs in a field of grass. In my car I notice that my blouse is too breezy for the still chilly weather. I turn up the heat to warm me and it makes me feel drowsy. Adrian is in his car seat behind me chatting away. He loves to be at home and often when we are out and about he will ask to, “go to mine home?” I’m thinking about how my husband called me a, “tough cookie” this morning at breakfast when Jonah left the table prematurely and I asked him to come back, sit down again and make a request, “to be excused.” I can be tough about good manners. And kindness.
A few nights ago, my boys and I were headed upstairs for our nighttime routine. We sing a little song that Jonah learned at school, “fol-low, fol-low,” as we climb our tall staircase. When we reach the top of the stairs each night, my boys love to run away from me to Jonah’s room and jump around and play like little bears, tumbling and bumping into one another. With Adrian still small, I usually do my best to either stay with them or herd them right back to the bathroom, with the gnawed bristles on their tooth brushes and their “Overtired and Cranky” bubble bath. Instead I thought that night that I would just let them be free and play alone while I got the bath filled, the toothpaste on the brushes, the pajamas laid out. I could hear them laughing and clearly having fun and then I heard a sound that all mothers are loathe to hear. It was the sound of a thump—the sound of a thump that only a head can make. I ran down our hallway sliding on my SmartWools and finally reaching Jonah’s room. Adrian was lying on the floor on his back looking stunned. Jonah was standing on his bed looking sheepish. I regretted my decision, was grateful for the thick rug on Jonah’s floor and I gingerly pulled Adrian to my chest. Jonah told me of bed-jumping on his little low-to-the-ground bed and arms flying and Adrian flipping. We all made our way to the tub, my heart the only thing thumping now and everyone in one piece.
A few nights later I was putting Jonah to bed. Adrian was already fast asleep and so I was lying in Jonah’s bed with him. It was later than usual and I was eager to get Jonah off to dreamland so that I might have a few moments to myself before another day began again. Jonah and I were facing each other and he reached over and squeezed my nose. He was expecting me to make a honking noise—a game we have long enjoyed and one that is not conducive to rapid slumber. I paused, then honked. He laughed hard and I couldn’t help myself, I laughed too. He did it again and there was just something in my honk that night that was hilarious to us both. He squeezed, I honked, we laughed. I gave myself over to the game and to laughing with my son. He did eventually fall off to sleep and I think I might have responded to one or two of the hundreds of e-mails in my inbox that night.
Mothering, to me, is like breathing. Pulling my children near and caressing them like an in-breath. Releasing them and setting them free like an out-breath. And at the same time experiencing them, each and every day, each and every moment that I let them, as the very oxygen that I breathe.