I am not the sort of mother to ask other mothers if I can hold their babies. I do like babies and I think they are cute. I just don’t need to feel another tiny body in my arms, to hear that sweet snuffling sound they make in their sleep. I don’t need to smell the top of a baby’s head to be reminded that there is a heaven and it rests within each of us in the form of possibility.
I am not that sort of mother. At least not normally.
Yesterday I was that sort of mother.
A friend of mine was sitting near me and I had a clear view of her young daughter sitting on her lap. I’ll call the baby Abby because I’ve always loved that name. Abby was doing baby things…teething on her mother’s beaded necklace, rubbing her eyes, loosing her balance and pillowing her head on her mother’s bosom, sucking her pacifier in and out in true Maggie fashion. Over and over Abby put her tiny hands onto her mother – patting, gripping, stroking. Abby needed to touch her mother to be sure that all was right in her world.
As I watched Abby, I was reminded of how much my own babies looked like her at that stage – big bald head, big eyes, chubby cheeks. And for the first time since before I had Littlest, I wanted to ask if I could hold a baby. I wanted to hold her tiny body in my arms, hear her sweet snuffles, smell her baby smell and be reminded that heaven does exist within each of us. I guess I’m missing my babies and their tiny hands finding me.
On September 7, 2008, I took this photo near where I was sitting yesterday. It’s Littlest in his little glory: gooey face, remnants of a nosebleed present, and that smile that made me agree to nearly every request he had. I love those hands of his, squeezed into fists. Moments before he’d been careening around that space, pretending to be a flying robot, his hands outstretched in the dappling sunshine. Moments later, his hand was in my own as we walked back to the car.
I love it when my babies hold my hand.
Seven years later, that baby is present only when Littlest is asleep or when I look really closely and he doesn’t realize I’m looking. Seven years later, Littlest is the only one of my babies who will hold my hand and mostly only when I ask him.
I try to not be overly melancholy about the gift it is to witness your children pass from your babies into their own selves. But every once in a while, I am reminded that there are no more babies on my lap, needing me to keep them safe, needing me to be the rudder of their lives. And I guess I miss that more than I had thought, even if I absolutely cherish using the bathroom without an audience and mostly sleeping through the night, hot flashes notwithstanding.
At this very moment, my first born is sitting across from me at the table. He’s drinking a protein shake and mostly ignoring me. 48 hours ago he was yelling at me, shouting a version of how he doesn’t need my hand to be any sort of rudder in his life, let alone holding his. It was the sort of fight that helps a parent let a child go into the world of their lives. It wasn’t fun and there were tears, but I suppose it was a needed thing.
My kids are three amazing young people who have their own hands on their life rudders. And at some point in our futures, our roles will reverse and it will be me who needs their hands to steady my unsure gait. It will be me who needs to touch them to make sure that all is right in my world.
Perhaps when I am very old, Littlest will take me to a big field and encourage me to pretend to be flying. He will encourage me to see the possibilities and then hold my hand as we go back to the car, ensuring that I know all is right with my world.