Embrace Them

From August 1996

When we finally moved into our new house, I had a goal: complete all the unpacking, hang all the curtains and pictures and be back into our regular schedule within two weeks. Everything was in order; I had a well-considered "to do" list, an abundance of natural energy and a powerful nesting urge, and every good intention to settle my family so that we would all be happier in a home that seemed so far from the familiar.

I hadn't counted on Patrick. Patrick is the most agreeable and articulate toddler I have ever encountered. (I am totally unbiased as I write this.) He is pure joy from morning until night, and then he sleeps a solid ten hours in his own bed without ever needing me. This child has certainly been an easy one. But Patrick has two fears: trucks and strange men.

Five houses on our street are under construction, including the the two next door. Trucks are the only traffic we see in this otherwise empty neighborhood. They pass by our house dozens of times every day and, for the first two weeks, would send Patrick screaming to be held. Upon picking him up, he would cling for dear life for the next hour--or until the next truck. As for strange men, there was the telephone man, the cable man and the countless construction men who would arrive unannounced throughout the day to fix this or that detail. Patrick would not let me put him down. He hadn't read my list and he didn't care about my agenda.

His brothers thought the trucks were "really way cool," and they quickly adapted to the presence of strange men in the house. They also figured that a new house in a new neighborhood should probably have new rules. Sot hey set out to test all the old ones. They seemed to remember so little of our former structure that my husband and I began to wonder if we left our children in Springfield.

Somewhere in the midst of this chaos, I recalled an essay I had read in Discovering Motherhood several years ago. The essayist had a complaint like mine. Her son would not allow her to accomplish anything. he wanted her undivided attention constantly. She swallowed her pride and called he sister-in-law, the mother of four children, for advice. This is the counsel she received:

Embrace him. He is empty and unsure of your permanence, for whatever reason, and the more you resist, the more unsure he gets. The more unsure he gets, the more he will cling. Embrace him every time he wants you to, for as long as he wants you to. Don't let go until he does. Eventually he will.

What wise advice. It applied most obviously to Patrick, still a toddler who was easily held in my arms. But it also applied to the older boys. I needed to remind them again and again that the security  of those rules and routines that had always been a part of their lives still existed. They needed to know that I still cared enough to monitor and restrict as necessary. All three children were begging for me--my time, my attention, my comforting presence. More than boxes unpacked and pictures hung, my children needed to know that I was the same as before, constant, unchanging and always available.

Eventually, I did unpack the pictures; and I marveled at how quickly my children have changed. There isn't a trace of roundness in my once fat babies. Where there used to be a full set of baby teeth, my oldest now sports a gap-toothed smile. And the bald baby has a full head of blond curls. The time to hold them close is short indeed. Once again, I am resolving to cherish this time, to wrap myself around it with all my being, to embrace it. And them.

The other day, I happened upon an overstuffed envelope filled withold columns. Most of them pre-date my time on the internet. I enjoyed some quiet time, re-acquainting myself with the young wife and mother who wrote those columns. And since I'm in need of a bit of a blogging break, I'm going to share her with you in the next few weeks. I hope you are blessed.