The Joy of Parenting

This week’s two posts have been downers, so today I’m going to focus on the absolute joy of parenting—the reward after infertility.

While I’ve loved every stage of my son’s life, I’ve enjoyed him the most since he turned four in February.  He’s become this extraordinary little individual, filled with intelligence, wonder, humor, empathy, affection, laughter and love. 

Each day starts with him coming into my bedroom and announcing, “Mama, I love you.  It’s morning.”  If I pretend to be asleep, he kisses me until I “wake up.” 

Then he’ll make suggestions, such as, “Do you want to play ‘shoot the pirate ship’?”  Knowing I’m anti-violence, he’ll add, “You don’t need to shoot pretend cannon balls.  You can shoot pretend bouncy balls that don’t kill people.”

Monday, I put on make-up—a rare occurrence—before going to his school for a meeting, and when he saw me, he said, “Wow.  You’re beautiful.”

When I pick him up from camp two mornings a week, he’ll yell with unbridled enthusiasm, “Mama!”  Then he comes running to wrap his arms around my waist.

If I put on a dress—which I’m doing often this summer, because, due to my 15-pound weight gain, none of my summer pants or shorts fit—he’ll exclaim, with absolute sincerity, “You look beautiful.”

Several times throughout each day, he’ll come up to me and demand hugs.

A couple of weeks ago, as we were driving in the car, my son announced to my husband and me that, when he grows up, he’s going to be a daddy, so that I can be married to two daddies.

As I put him to bed the other night, he asked me, “Mama, what is a grandfather?”  I said that it’s just a different word for “grandpa,” a word he understands because he has two of them.  I explained that when he gets older, gets married and has kids, my husband will be a grandfather to his kids, and I’ll be their grandmother.  He burst into tears.  When I asked him why he was crying, he said, “I don’t want you to be a grandmother.  I will not marry someone else.  I just want to live with you.” 

I promised him that he can live with me forever—and I mean it.

Our conversation turned to his Daddy, and I told him how special it is that his Daddy adopted him, that his Daddy chose him to be his son.  He leapt from his adoption to the fact that my husband “works out” all the time, while I, on the other hand, never use “my machine”—my NordicTrack, which collects dust and serves as a clothes hanger—and my weights.  I said, “I know.  I’m a loser who never works out.  But I’m starting to think about working out, and I’ll get around to it someday…”

He paused for effect, then asked, “What?  When you’re a … grandmother?” 

His sense of humor and timing are incredible to me.  One day in the car, my husband asked us, “Do you know what’s funny?”  And, before he could tell us, my son, pointing to his 15-year-old brother, said, “His head.”

My husband, well-aware of my eating-disordered past, will not comment on my appearance one way or another.  If I gain weight, he doesn’t want to call attention to it, upsetting me.  If I lose weight, he doesn’t want me to feel like a thinner me is preferable to him, so he’ll never say a word.  If I ask, “Do I look fat in this?”, he’s mute.  My son, on the other hand, has no artifice.  Last night, he said, “Mama, your stomach is fat, because you eat too much.”  I said, “I know.  I’m eating too much because I’m sad that I’m trying to have a baby, and it’s not working.”  He replied, “When you eat too much, it looks like you have a baby in your belly.” 

Apparently, it sometimes takes a four-year-old to unlock the secrets of the 41-year-old subconscious mind:  I want to be pregnant, therefore I’m subconsciously making myself look pregnant.  Damn…  Perhaps he should go into psychiatry.

This tiny wise one then turns back into a little boy, daring me to sword-fight with him, inviting me to shoot Stormtroopers, asking me to play hide-and-go-seek.  He makes me young again, pounding with Play-Doh, building with Tinker Toys and Legos, constructing elaborate GeoTrax train tracks.  He teaches me about myself, about life, about the truly unconditional nature of love.

At night, before my son goes to bed, he tells me that he “loves me all the way up to space and back,” his attempt to top the final line in Sam McBratney’s children’s book, Guess How Much I Love You: “I love you right up to the moon—and back.”  And, I tell him I love him “all the way up to space and back” too.

The truth is that I am proud to be his mother, and I feel like I love him more than any human being has ever loved another.  I suspect that’s how every parent feels about his/her children.  And, that’s as it should be.

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