I am lying on my back on a bath rug. My legs are draped over and into a full tub of water occupied by my two naked babies. Oh, but they are not babies any longer. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to hold on to their sometimes still-round bellies, they continue to grow. Both can submerge their heads under water in this oval, jacuzzi tub now. Whipping their hair back when they come to the surface again, they remind me of their father coming out of the swimming pool. This movement—my older boy Jonah picked it up from observation and has since passed it on to his little brother, Adrian. I am lying on the rug and I am experiencing a feeling inside in great contrast to the way that I have felt throughout the day. I relish my in-breath and experience a deep relaxation come over me as I exhale. My boys are playing “doctor” and caring for my “injured” feet. They’ve created a paste out of the eczema soap mixture I’ve given them to soothe their dry, winter skin and with it they smooth my own dry heals. I breathe deeply letting my day fall away, letting go of the nearly constant monologue of the many should’s and how-to’s and reminders of kindnesses and cleanliness and carefulness that I’ve been administering for nearly twelve hours now. I close my eyes and listen to the musings of the doctors at work—of Jonah, describing the way in which he is healing my broken toes and deciding that he is a water-scientist at work. Adrian stands and peers over the side of the tub at me, water dripping from his long eyelashes. It is clear that he has recently submerged himself again. He looks at me through his chocolatey brown eyes and assures me that I don’t need to be afraid of being treated by the doctors, that I am safe. “Nana, is right behind you,” he says. He knows that Nana is my Mom and that I will feel safe if my Mom is near. I’m glad for that association.
Lingering in Adrian’s gaze has been an anchor for me in this time of changing routines and greater time apart. I meet him there whenever I can. Sometimes when he is finishing up a meal, sometimes when we are reading a book together and we come to an amusing passage and often when he is luxuriating on the potty as he is known to do. “I don’t need privacy,” he says while he is sitting there on his sky blue potty with the little bear on it. And he can sit for a very long while. Most of the time, I can find the presence to sit in front of him and just take him in in this wholly natural and vulnerable place. I know so well that this time will pass, although, my bigger boy Jonah— now five—would still have me sit with him and take in his dreamy, blue eyes in this very same way every time he uses the bathroom if I would! I sometimes do. This is all that my children long for in life —my attention and the attention of those surrounding them and dear to them. Not in a, “look at me,” kind of way—although there is quite a bit of that, too. Their greatest need, their greatest pleasure is in the single-minded presence of those who love them. They can spy distractedness, multi-tasking and living-in-one’s-head from a mile away, too, like a couple of little detectives. Watch them how they jump wildly from the couch. Watch them how they roar.
Back on the bath rug, Jonah decides that it is time to rinse off my legs. He inadvertently pours water not just down the front of my legs but also over the side of the tub soaking my entire pant legs. I cry out a little and try to jump up but it is difficult with my legs wedged the way they are. I finally raise up enough to swing my feet around and bring my face close to Jonah and we are both laughing and I am sort of breathless from trying to get up and just witnessing his full-body laughter. Looking at him in that free and joyful place of unencumbered laughter—like a wave—wipes away so much of the coarser back-and-forth that we had experienced together throughout the day. It wipes away so much and brings us face to face, heart to heart, once again.