- Boy and Dog
None of us get everything we wish for in life, but one thing I hit the jackpot on was getting a girl and a boy in only two tries. I never thought I wanted children until I reached my late 20’s and around that time I realized that being a mom would be an experience I’d like to have. I didn’t care which I had first, but I knew I wanted one of each. When we had our daughter, we were both as in love as anyone could be and dazzled by all things ‘girl’. My husband would have been fine with another, even though our kid limit was two, but I still wanted to find out how the other half lives. It took us five years, but we got our boy and that is just what my husband usually calls him when asking where he is or what he’s up to. Not, “Where’s the boy?”, but “Where’s Boy?” Boy has a perfectly good name, but the word really defines him for us, or he defines it.
Never has the contrast between Boy and his sister been greater than recently, when the weather finally broke. Boy has been trapped in the house with us during these long winter months at a time when any boy worth his salt is wanting to test his limits. Precisely 3 1/2 now, he has the energy level, if not the agility, of a spider monkey. Some days a spider monkey on Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola. (No, I don’t give him those, but if you came over you might swear I had). A spider monkey with questionable agility is a very bad thing in a furnished home with glass stuff, so we’ve all been desperately waiting for the chill of winter to subside so we could humanely release Boy into his natural habitat: the big swing set with climby parts, a slide and soft sand all around. Now that he’s being allowed to run, jump, throw and climb without repercussion, he’s really feeling his independence (and for the first time in his life he believes he’s not being watched every minute, since I can look right out at him while I do dishes.)
As any mother of a toddler of either sex knows, there comes a time when they want to stretch their wings a bit, when they are naturally inclined to explore and increase the distance between themselves and their parents. Depending on the child, the first attempts can range from timid to Knievel-esque, but these little forays will almost always be followed by a regression, complete with baby talk and a desire to be scooped up and loved on. It’s a touching, fascinating push and pull – watching them tinker with their boundaries and then come rushing back for reassurance that you are still there.
With our daughter, the process wasn’t as dramatic. She was always a more cautious child and I only remember a brief period of clinginess and baby talk. Boy, however, has made the process all his own. When he goes away from us, he really goes. We have to repeatedly head off his attempts to go exploring in our outbuildings or disappear into the tree line. He will stay out as long as we let him and seems to be completely unconcerned as to where we are. He tries out his body like one might try out a new dirt bike or snowmobile; he isn’t overly concerned about getting it dirty, scuffed or scraped – his only mission is to see what it’s capable of. All the places he couldn’t get to on the play set last year are now easily accessible and it was great fun to watch him open the outdoor toy bin and rediscover all the toys he himself helped put away last year. “Mom! There are some really cool toys in here!” were his exact words.
As sweet as it is to see your baby boy reveling in his own physicality and exercising his burgeoning will, most moms will experience a pang right about now. Like dimples disappearing from once-chubby knuckles, it reminds us that our ‘cuddle bug’ days are numbered. That’s why I think the regression part of this process is in place as much for mom’s sake as for his. We both need time to get used to the new order of things. And just as his need for independence is much stronger than his sister’s was, his need for physical reassurance is also much greater. I have to admit, it doesn’t always happen at convenient moments, but when he needs it I know I better drop everything. He usually comes clutching a pillow or blanket, big-eyed and beseeching. In a voice higher and softer than normal, he will say, “Mom, I need ‘tention,” or “I need love.” Then it’s time to gather him up and sit in the big easy chair. Sometimes he wants a song, sometimes he wants silence and always he wants his back rubbed and his hair stroked. We will sit this way for 5 or 10 minutes (sometimes longer) until he decides we can get up. Every second of it is glorious and, no matter how busy I am, I intend to make each one of these sessions last as long as possible. For both our sakes. Someday Boy will go far away and, hopefully, these little moments are adding to a secure foundation. Isn’t that what everyone one needs for a successful launch?