wants and needs


Spring comes on apace.  Buds nearly opening on JD’s cherry; the white magnolias by the Chinese garden in full bloom.  Must take a walk around the neighborhood to see if any of our favorites from last year are going yet.  Odd to think of how much suspense and unknowing was packed into this week a year ago.  We walked around, full of potential (and heartburn), with no idea what we were getting into.  I remember being fairly calm about the whole thing, but feeling the dam about to burst with all the force of new experience behind it.  It hasn’t stopped for a moment since then.  This I failed to imagine.  Before her it seems like life was something of a patchwork, in which I could be absorbed in one thing for a time and then walk away from it completely, to something else.  Only now do I recognize the peacefulness and quiet there was in having only myself, my internal world and consciousness . . . Jeff is right that Zelda is like a low hum that never goes away.  Her color is on everything now and has been for nearly a year … and will be my whole life if I am so lucky?

When you are bigger, I want you to know these things about the year after you were born: we were together all the time.  I did everything for you.  Your father, too.  He worked endlessly to make you happy, to keep you from crying or to stop it if it started.  We fed you bite by bite, our hands like bird mouths, alternating as we placed bits and pieces on your tongue.  I almost never refused you the breast.  Until the last month or so of this year, I literally always gave it if you asked.  And you asked, on and off, all day long and all night long; every hour, or half hour, or three hours.  When you were sick, I held you without pause all day and night, sleeping sitting up leaning against pillows that your father placed carefully for me.  You never liked to lie on your back, or your stomach.  You liked to stand on our laps, or sit, facing forward, in our arms, leaning your head into life.  For the first week after you were born, you would fall asleep on your father’s chest, your head over his heart and your arms splayed.  He loved it.  You are sleeping now, sitting on my lap in your pouch, your legs wrapped round my waist.  Occasionally turning your head from side to side against my chest, murmuring in your throat.  Your hands, for once, hang limp.  I look around at all the mothers in this world, at the grocery, on the street, in the parks and restaurants and pools, and marvel: they all did this?  Lived this endlessly devoted existence?  Waited days upon days to shower, stood at the sink up to the elbows in dishes with a yelling child yanking their pants off?  I am awed.  

Your papa is concerned about justice.  He sleeps alone, in the other bedroom.  He feels guilty that I have no choice but to wrestle with you all night long, always hoping you will remain asleep a little longer this time, or go back to sleep a little quicker.  If you are restless, if you are teething or on the edge of some developmental leap, or if you are just the way you are and wake again and again and cry and struggle against sleep or its opposite and kick me in the belly and smack my face with your little hands, then that is simply the nature of my night.  You rule my world.  And perhaps there will be a time when you read this and are indignant.  You see these words as complaint, or believe that I am trying to tell you that you owe me something.  But that is not the case.  I knew, every step of the way, that I was choosing to never turn you down, to never deny you the physical assurance and comfort and attention that you believe you need.  I knew that we made the choice to bring you into our lives and that giving you all of ourselves would be, for us, a necessary part of that choice.  Your dad and I – oh, babe – we love each other so much.  We had no idea what we were going to give up in this first year to be able to give you what we believed you needed.  But when your dad worries about justice, I tell him, we are here. And now she’s here. We’re bound to each other. That’s justice.    

As we move into the second year of your life I will have to turn you down more.  I will have to ask more of you, and more of myself, to do this.  In many ways, this year has been very simple: you have done a wonderful job of taking care of yourself.  You have let me know what you need and have taken it.  (I hope so much that you will always be able to do this: to state your needs, to unapologetically accept what is offered to you when you ask for it.  It is a wonderful thing to live in this world as an animal, with a deep understanding of need and family (those who must and will give you what you need, and to whom you must do the same) and the judgments left aside.)  I have not had to decipher your wants from your needs, as I will have to do each day for many years, and occasionally, after that, forever.  In regards to you, I will have to do this for myself as well, and your papa for himself; we will want things from and for you that we do not need, and I hope that we will have the sense to back away from these things if you do not also want them.  


Published by Devon Riley

lately: youth work, parenting, sorcery, books, walks in the woods

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