On neediness

This morning I awoke all kinds of agitated. I had had a restless night of sleep (again, ugh) and had set my alarm for 6 AM so I could eke out a 4 or 5 mile run before the kids and Luis woke.  Like clock work, they sleep til 7 every day   … no matter what time they go to sleep, so I figured I had at least an hour to myself for “me” time.

I dragged myself out of bed, put my contact lenses in, brushed my teeth and was about to get dressed when I could hear Ben crying, “MOMMY! MOMMY!” from his room. It was 6, not 7. I may have said a swear word out loud.

The little devil on my shoulder said, “Let him cry for a few, he’ll be fine, eventually Luis will hear him …” but how could I turn my back on my baby and leave for an hour, knowing he was upset, and would likely wake the entire house, if Luis didn’t hear him? (He sleeps LIKE A ROCK).

So instead, I changed him, got him his milk and we snuggled in our bed. He’s talking in little sentences now and answering some questions and most certainly expressing himself, so for the next half  hour, while I drifted in and out of sleep with him on top of my chest, he chatted. “Mommy bed. Benny bed. Daddy bed. Where woof no [go]?”[peeks over bed to Rocco’s dog bed] “Hello woof! Where Rara [Maya] no? Rara night night? Shush woofies [to neighbor’s dogs] More milk! Kick Daddy! Kick! Not nice, Benny. [repeating me’]”

He ticked off the names of everyone in my family, over and over and over “Kiki Matt Lala Bama Pop Bama Lala Kiki Matt”. Counted “two, six, eight, free” (Note: I didn’t even know he knew his numbers til this week when he started saying them when Maya was counting  … how bad a mama am I?!! But as I said years ago with Maya, there’s so much she knows that I don’t know she knows.) Sang “A,B,C”  andBa Ba B(l)ack  Sheep.” Lost his Quack-Quack; found Quack-Quack.

And then all that thinking and processing must have worn him out because the next thing you knew, I had a heavy, sleeping sweet little toddler on my chest, breathing softly and evenly into my neck. Listening to him sleep — a 15-min. cat-nap was all I got — made missing my planned workout completely worth it. After all, I can work out any time; he won’t want to lay on my chest and burrow his body into mine forever. He  won’t “need” me this way forever.

In fact, I already see our days numbering as he spends more and more time following Maya around and looking up to her  — doing anything and everything she does. They’re playmates now  — buddies. Yesterday I heard quiet voices in her room and stood in the doorway to see them playing with her babies. Apparently all the babies were sick and throwing up and needed to get medicine … and Maya (wearing a stethoscope) and Ben were the doctors.  Maya was bossing Ben around but, per usual, he didn’t seem to mind and did what she asked him to do  — take the blanket, cover this baby, pat that baby.

I listened, unseen, for a couple minutes, smiling to myself because this is what I had always envisioned when I thought of giving Maya a sibling.  Sure, they fight over toys or because Ben wants to color with her when she wants to color alone  … but on the whole, they really are buds now and it warms my heart to see her snuggling with him and “reading”  to him, or watching  her teach him how to play with their little souvenir guitars from our Mexico vacation in March (something I witnessed the other morning).  At school, she seeks him out on the playground and when he wakes, aside from needing me to get him out of his crib, all he wants is “RARA!”  They really do love each other, and that warms my heart since I am  so close to my siblings.

After a few minutes, she spotted me. “Mommy!” she chastised. But then she smiled. “We’re playing nice!!”

A moment after explaining the makeshift doctor’s office in her room: “Can you please leave now?”

Well that wasn’t what I was expecting to hear… but in a way, it was a good thing she said it, because it made me think about neediness: one of motherhood’s bittersweet juxtapositions.

Motherhood is very much about being needed … and not-so-needed  … over and over and over throughout a child’s life, and into perpetuity, really. A mother’s love never dies, and a mother will never stop worrying about her kids. But mothers also need to let go, and let their kids do their own things, too. This is something my own mom (and dad) taught me well: Give them wings and let them fly. They’ll always know where the nest is.

Of course, with small kids — only 4 and 1– safety is still the key reason I don’t let them just do whatever they want at this age  … but I love knowing they can play nicely without me, too. They don’t “need” us 24/7 and that is something really cool, too. It makes cooking dinner easier, doing dishes easier, even just being together in general easier (well, except when they are acting like kids and being obnoxious!)

I did feel like I was missing out for a quick second — like, they were having fun without me! — but that was also the beautiful part. They were having fun without me.

So I walked back to my room and finished folding laundry, with a half-smile playing  on my lips.

Sure, Ben still depends on us for pretty much all his basic needs, but Maya is pretty self-sufficient. Sometimes there are moments she needs us: she’ll ask for snuggles or fall and needs a Band-Aid, or she’s scared  (like she was when we saw Inside Out on  Friday and she climbed into my lap for half the movie) and wants me or doesn’t understand something and asks us (her questions about death lately have been really hard to swallow) … I love those moments of feeling needed by her — probably because now I’m feeding her emotional needs versus just basic needs.

But in a flash it’ll happen, just like it did with her: there will come a time when Ben will be able to dress himself and put on his own shoes … get his own cup to fill with water … potty-train … <<sigh/heaven help me>>. And I’ll be less-needed by him, too, for the everyday things.

So for now, I’ll just sit here and enjoy the sweet juxtaposition of motherhood: being needed and not-so-needed, but always here for them.

With open arms, a bosom to snuggle into, and a heart that is ridiculously full of love for them. Even when they’re driving me bat-@#@! crazy 😉

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