May 2, 2012

On Loving a 2-Year-Old.

I love her, I love her, I love her. But it’s different now. Different than it was when she was a baby and I was a new mom. It’s so much better now. I’m so much better now.

When we brought her home and she was so tiny and new and grunting and squawking, I knew I loved her, but I was scared of her. Too soon there were too many decisions that had to be made about how to care for her (Should we clip her frenulum, which was too short and made nursing excruciating for me? Should we let her cry it out? Should we leave her with my mom for five days and go to the beach, just me and Nekos?) The decisions felt impossibly large. At the time, I felt that the decisions I made about Tessa defined me as a person, but now I think they just defined where I was then as a person. Then I was a new mom who didn’t know what was to come. I didn’t know that everything was going to be just fine and that Tessa was going to be so very lovely.

I thought those first days would be filled with play and laughter, but what they really were was … boring. I so often found a reason to open a beer by 4:30 p.m. and sit out on the back porch with her in her vibrating seat, swatting mosquitoes away from her tawny skin and feeling sort of suffocated and at a loss with what to do with her. She didn’t talk or walk or sit up, just grunted and looked deep into my eyes like she was searching for her reflection there. But, still, oh how I loved her. I just didn’t know what to do with her.

Now not only is there so much to do, but I’m doing it well. I know it. More often than not, I think, Today I was a really good mother. I’ve had a lot of good feelings in my life, but for me there is no better feeling in the world. I find the deepest contentment in knowing I made a good day for her and that she’s sleeping, sweaty and deep, worn out from play and full of food and having been kissed excessively.

The change came when Tessa started communicating with me and when she began to understand what I’m saying and to trust in it. Both deeply satisfied, it was a turning point in our relationship when I could say, “Hey, Tess? I looooove you,” and know that she knew. Now when I say it, she cocks her head, grins and says, “No! I love YOU!” And the way her eyes glitter, I know she means it, too.

I’ve had more than one mom, sensing my uneasiness, tell me that, whatever I do, I have to be 100 percent confident in my decisions as a mother. But I’m just not. I never will be. I’m just winging it, doing the best I can, taking it day by day, hoping that more days than not I’ll fall asleep with that deepest contentment thinking, Today I was a really good mother.

And, also? I love two-year-olds. I just love them.