This blog has always been a compilation of moments in pregnancy and motherhood that I never want to forget. As parents, we find life is a mix of minutes and days rushing by exactly like the time-flash forward scenes in the movies, and moments when we hold that baby or toddler or ten year old on our lap and force their body close to our own heart and breathe in their essence. Every small moment was possibly preceded by a completely different emotion. We can go from feeling like the bottom-feeder of parents to taking that necessary breath and pause in our own reactivity, leading to the moment your child’s face lights up in pure joy. (I would in fact argue that provoking joy in a child is easier than frustration. Unless they are 3. Then you’re screwed.)
Bringing your child to daycare or preschool may be surrounded by a personal mixture of emotions, including guilt. Guilt at leaving them, guilt at enjoying the adult time away, guilt you can’t even put your finger on. But when you walk into your child’s school room at pick-up time and you watch their face turn toward you and light up with recognition it fills my heart with love and my eyes with tears. You told them you would return after nap to pick them up and you DID. You are a parent to be trusted and you are rewarded by little feet that have a direct route to your arms and wrap themselves around you.
It’s the look on their face and their arms clutching you, but when they cry out, “Mommy!!” in a way that no one else on Earth will every use your name, that is when the moment becomes one of those times to seal away in memory.
One of my favorite all-time books is The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Briefly, it is about a futuristic dystopian society and one of the ways in which this community had evolved was to eliminate strong emotions. In order to take away pain and suffering the society had also found it necessary to eradicate love and joy. The people in the community were content, they weren’t even aware of what they were missing one way or the other. For as long as this society had been established, it was decreed that there would be one person in the community who did experience all of these emotions in the form of memories. This person was a sort of living historian of an ancient time when emotions were uncontrollable, but they were forbidden to share this information with anyone except the next Receiver of the memories, who would carry the burden until being able to transpose them to the next recipient. The living historian was known as The Giver. Beyond many layers and twists to this plot, there are scenes where The Giver places his hands on Jonas, The Receiver, to share a memory. The Giver knows his job is to pass on all of the memories, but dreads having to impart the painful ones, so he follows them with personal favorites: family celebrating Christmas, the contentment of being on a boat in the middle of the ocean, the thrill of sledding followed by delicious hot chocolate.
What if there was someone in your life who wanted to know exactly what it felt like to be a parent and you had the ability to transpose memories and emotions? You could send them a snippet of what true sleep deprivation felt like, or how the cries of your own child actually trigger a biological reaction in your soul because your DNA understands that the baby is trying to communicate with you in the only way they know how…but THEN you could apologize and place your hands on the shaking, petrified friend and let those unpleasantries melt away into the scene where you open the door to your son’s classroom and at first he doesn’t realize you’re there. He’s engaged in a three-year old’s conversation with two of his schoolmates about the toys in front of them on the table. It doesn’t take him but a moment to instinctually look up, though (perhaps the wafting essence of Mommy?). His eyes widen and his mouth cries out with that, “Mommy!!” Compulsive giggles punctuate the running of his feet to tackle whatever part of your body he can make contact with first. He looks at you with so much unabashed love and his arms cling around you while he whispers, “Mommy…Mommy…Mommy,” nuzzling into your neck.
There are things that break your heart in life and then there are the things that strengthen that non-muscular version of the organ. This time you are filled with a healing, glowing, bursting contentment. All is right with the world. This is definitely one of the moments, one of the memories, that I would gladly Give to a friend who wants to feel exactly what it’s like to be a parent.