I walk towards the trash bin sometime after sunset. The only place and the only time I can be alone in the evening. When Lukáš is also at home, that is.
I may think about how crazy it is that your child is one but is still likely to wake up crying half an hour after you put him to sleep. Or moan about my fate as a young woman who, for an indefinite period of time, can forget about all sorts of concerts, theatre plays, open-air cinemas, film nights with friends, sitting by the fire for hours on end…
I may think about how my child hasn’t started walking yet and how the whole building keeps asking me every day whether the miracle has finally happened. (“No, he hasn’t,” I say and they reply: “It’s okay, he has time.” as if that’s some kind of a race?) Or how I won’t manage to discard daytime nappies by the end of the summer.
But I don’t think about that. I only think about the little patch of dark pink sky which I see behind the building in front of me.
The same dark pink summer sky above the opposite building which I was looking at out the window last year, sunk in the black hole of exhaustion, anxiety and the conviction that I’m no good as a mother.
And you know, I kind of miss that time.
There’s something pathological about that, sure. And yet, everything that’s already passed makes me start missing it. Even the time I fiercely wished it could be just over.
Juley’s birth and the first few months after that, though, I’m going to miss more than all wonderful and sad things that have ever happened to me.
First, because they went by so unnoticeably amid tears, lack of sleep and fear. And second, because that’s the only period in my life I would have changed had I been able to go back in time.
What disappeared unnoticeably:
his after-birth smell
spending minutes on end staring at his pulsating fontanelle
the cute sound he makes after sneezing
his attempts to raise his head up to see me
his sleeping on me (with all its cons, yes)
being able to wear him in the sling for hours
his looking for the milk, pushing me with his head – like a baby bird pecking blindly
and other things
What I would have changed if I had known the things I know now:
I would have taken him to my bed as early as in the hospital
I wouldn’t have given him to the nurse the night he cried incessantly, the doctors recommending me not to soothe him with milk so his tummy wouldn’t hurt
I wouldn’t have been worried by the fact he wanted milk once an hour instead of once every two-three hours
I would have slept when he slept (instead of digging into the internet and deepening my anxiety)
I would have worn/carried him even more often
I would have photographed him more often
I would have…
But yes, enough would-haves.
Actually, the more he grows, the better it gets. And the harder, not so much physically as mentally (and psychologically).
And I? What am I like after a year?
I am not fooling myself. Anxiety is still pestering me. I still feel a slight fear of being alone with him at home.
But I already know what kind of fear that is. I also know there’s no solution for it for the time being. So we either go outside and I run away from it or I lead little every-day battles against it, somehow always managing to find a way to defeat it (until next time).
And then I know I am not alone in these feelings of mine. And that helps a lot!
However, I also know I gain confidence with time. I can already defend my choices and behaviour. I can see the path I’ve taken as a parent. I can see it’s tough and I largely walk it alone (virtual support excluded). I am yet to “reap results”. But I will be lying if I say I don’t see their sprouts.
Damn, Juley and I flew by plane alone! Not bad for someone who feared to go outside that same time last year, right?
I am not perfect. And I will never be. And I’m glad I won’t.
And the only thing I want to be for Juley is a harbour of his. I want him to chase the waves, to fight, if he must, or go with the flow. It’s his choice. But may he know that in the endless sea, intoxicating in one moment and hostile in the next, there’s a little harbour standing, always ready to welcome him home.
So that this can happen, I think he needs to decide for himself when he’ll head into the open sea. And I should neither urge, nor discourage him.
It’s hard. In the nights when he wakes up seven times or the days when he’s had enough of playing with his toys for five minutes and he can now start clinging to my leg, a doubt creeps through: “Am I doing anything wrong?”
No. I’m not. I know I’m not. I believe it.
I believe that just like he learned to nap alone (thanks for that, Juls!), he’ll learn the rest of the things as well. In his own pace.
Only now do I see how empowering that is. How, following him, I actually give him the right to choose his life from the day of his birth! Not to do what he wants. No one needs this, especially he. Just to choose these most important things in his early life. To be the one to cut all those umbilical cords between himself and me which are invisible to the others. When he decides to do so.
And because I don’t want to make it sound like my one-year son can’t do anything, here are some of the things he can do:
he can talk! he says “train”, “mama”, “Weiss”, “puppy”, “nom”, “there isn’t”, “no”, “have”
he can imitate an owl
every time he’s drunk water he does “khaaah”
he can eat with a fork and spoon
he can drink from a normal glass or bottle
he can climb all the stairs to the third floor alone
he can dance
he can wave his finger critically
he can pay with a contactless card in the shop
he displays my travel card to the ticket collector in the train for checking
he mops the floor
he turns the light off in the bathroom after his bath
(apart from the days when he totally refuses to do that) he poops and sometimes pees in the potty
he can insert bolts into holes
OK, enough before you blame me for boasting.
Our days pass by almost the same way. I often catch myself wishing it was finally eight o’clock so that I can be alone for a while and do something undisturbed. But then something suddenly stirs in me. While sleeping, Juley’s growing up. Just like that. Unnoticeably and irrevocably.
And this thought brings me back to the moment. It makes me live mindfully through all those things that one day – not that far in the future perhaps – will disappear:
the times when, tired, he leans his head on my chest
his first clumsy steps
the milk – that second, almost visible umbilical cord; that journey that began in the first minutes after his birth and that is still going on
his need to be close to me
his smile when he wakes up and sees me
and even his crying – a spontaneous, raw expression of feelings.
All this will end. It has to end (apart from crying, I guess; I think it’s very useful for men, even in private). And I will have to bid it farewell, calmly, as wise women do.
As harbours do.
Will it be hard?
Of course. Those of you who know me: do you think I look like a wise woman?
And yet, I’ll have to become one. It’s just part of my journey.
And if there’s anything I’m good at, it’s collecting imprints of time. Bottling time, as Bradbury’s dandelion wine. For rainy days.
So nothing will slip away from me completely.
But enough conservation for today. Enough added sugar. The best and sweetest fruit are fresh ones, right?
I’m going to get my hands full of them.
Juley is now fourteen months. He walks. He says “the swings”, “little rock”, “airplane”, “merci” and “ciao”.
He still wakes up a couple of times a night.
He still wears nappies.
Photo credits: Lukáš Zavřel