Just before I got pregnant with Henry, I was helping a homebound patron edit her book. She couldn’t come to writers’ group, so she sent me her pages each month, and I’d take them for feedback and send it back to her. The book was on astrology, and she’d created a new system for reading the stars. While she asked me not to share the details of the system, she did a reading for me as a thank you. She said this decade, my thirties, would be the best of my life and most successful.
Now I am not much of a believer in anything beyond the physical world. I have a thorny relationship with religion and am a skeptic about most everything else. But this stuck with me. Thirty was the age where I let go of fears, accepted my limitations, and came to terms with the fact that happiness was not a thing bestowed open me but a thing I had to work for. Things are not always easy – I’ve also dealt with some of the worst depressive episodes of my life – but overall, my thirties have been far and away more productive and happier than any other time in my life. I have to attribute some of this happiness to Henry.
I don’t write about him much. When I’m with him, I soak up every moment of him, good and bad. That’s the way I parent, and it works for me. But it makes me want to escape when I’m not with him. At work, I focus on work; when he’s in bed, I’m thinking about other things. He exhausts me. There is also the background thought, all the time, that other people don’t want to read about him. That people are inherently tired of children. Children are so glorified in our society, seen as such a reason to be alive and to be fierce and proud, that we get tired of parents who are too vocal.
Today I wanted to write about him, though. There are some things I wanted to document. Henry, at almost 20 months, is a reason to be alive and fierce and proud, even if I don’t want to talk about it all the time. He drove me crazy today, not wanting to sit in the cart at Target or Acme, and I had to alternately carry him and let him walk, pushing the cart with one hand. I was sweating, as the temperature rocketed from 30 to 50 in two hours and my head began to pound with the change. Yet there were small moments, like when we left the house and a random teenager was strolling past playing his guitar, and Henry stopped to dance. When I asked him, “Do you love Mommy?” and he said “Yes!” When Ed asked him if he had something he wanted to tell Facebook, and he said, “Bus.” “Bus” was today’s word of the day; everything was a bus.
He knows how to turn on my Nook and find his spelling game app. He can spell words within the app. He knows how to find his Babyphone app, too, and he knows how to turn on the Wii and start Donkey Kong Country. He knows letters: O, I, A, M, E – but he’s confounded by W and J. He will climb into the lap of a stranger and dance to cell phone ringtones. He loves to sit with me and read.
Before he was born, I was so worried that having a child would mess up my life, the way it was. That all my free time would be sucked away in an instant – that I would be a different person, an obnoxious person who thought and talked about her kid all the time. I reminded myself that it was going to be hard, and that I needed to remember that life is not all about me anymore. This is the way it is now: I am still me, like I said I would be. I was prepared for the difficulties, so I wasn’t shocked. There were only pieces of this life that I wasn’t prepared for. He has so much power, this small bright star. He has so much ahead of him, so much discovery, and I have so much to learn about being his mother.
Children don’t make you happy merely by existing. No one wanting to improve their marriage or their lives in general should have a child to accomplish that. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should or should not have a child. That is your decision. My decision was to create and shape this little person, and I’m glad I made it. As Ed would say: “he’s pretty awesome.” When he’s exhausting, when he’s fascinating, and when he’s shining.