When I was 8 or so, my mom would dash from Thousand Oaks to Woodland Hills, swoop us up from school and cart us back to Thousand Oaks for our horseback riding lessons. There wasn’t enough time to get it all done, so my sister and I stripped down our plaid skirts and pulled on our tan britches in the back of the Suburban. We wrote out a check from my mom’s checkbook and just before we flew past the Club House at Foxfield, Mom would sign her money away.
When we were not quite old enough, my mom would make the same trek to Foxfield at 7 a.m. Saturday mornings; Jessica and I would spend the entire day cavorting around that magical place. My mom had a day to herself and my sister and I traipsed around the barn like small, fledgling human beings. We knew how to use the pay phone, how to obtain lunch and when it was time to tack up our horses. We were young, but capable.
Many years later, as I subbed kindergarten for the first–and last–time, I realized that my mother had done her job too well. I abhorred the neediness of those little tots: how they grabbed my hand with their snotty one, how they necessitated assistance in the bathroom for a myriad reasons (wipe, flush, pull up, wash), how they could not understand multi-step instructions, those bastards.
And ever since, I have constructed an entire life composed of non-needy, non-dependent friends, colleagues and partners. Dependence drives me nuts.
Somehow, however, I created, housed and now am 98% responsible for the world’s most dependent living creature. This sweet-faced monkey is latched to my side, waist or nipple 23 out of every 24 hours. He will only sleep if spooning me. He despises the baby hammock N and I had visions of him snoozing away in.
It took me two weeks to realize if I wanted any sleep at all, I was going to have to let my baby be a barnacle.
And if I wanted any sanity at all, I was going to have to convince myself that this dependence–this trait that I deplored–was a symbiotic, temporary, adorable characteristic that melted my heart like butter on a burner. Somehow I needed to embrace neediness and clinginess and complete and utter reliance.
I tell you this because 1. I didn’t realize that this was the aspect of Motherhood that would challenge me, and 2. because I somehow DID convince myself of the very symbiosis I needed to ingrain. Nobody really talks about how at 34, when you’ve been footloose and fancy free, when you’ve had your passport stamped at dozen ports of calls and eaten happy hour nachos at the pub on a whim and took the long arm of the trail this time because you felt like it–no one tells you that having a baby on your hip while you eat every.single.meal and having him tucked between your thighs and breasts as you both lay on your side every.single.night.–no one tells you this might be overwhelming to your independent self. That you might freak the fuck out for a while. That you might hyperventilate. Feel a bit nauseous. That you might resent the love-making and baby growing and even the little monkey himself for a while.
I told my best friend that I was going to have to make a conscious choice: that I was going to have to embrace this symbiotic, temporary, adorable characteristic of my spawn or I would have to locate my passport and flee the country.
Now, a handful of weeks later, I eat all my meals one-handed, standing, bouncing the babe as I dribble coffee or soba noodle on his head. I dread the day when N demands that LL sleeps in his own bed or crib or hammock because his gassy fits and nursing coos are too loud. I am certain that one day the little munchkin will treat me with the reservation and distance that I witness between my high schoolers and their parents, and I will long for this time when his fat fingers clutched at my neckline and his body squirmed on my lap–blog post be damned.
Without knowing quite how, I drank the juice and am relishing (most) of LL’s dependence. Sure, i would love to enjoy a full, hot cup of coffee and a trip to the bathroom without my child attached to me in one of my four baby carriers, but for now, I’ve found joy in the obscenely dependent nature of my newborn. I know that like my mom, I too, will foster (perhaps too much) independence, and that my baby boy may one day be so capable, so autonomous that he straps on a pack with a one way ticket to somewhere in his hands and no plans to return, no intentions of calling his mother.
That day will come. These days are here. I chant one of my running mantras in my head: This is where you are. This is what it is. We are in dependence.
And it is sweet and simple and full of a thousand small coos and smiles and feet that cling to my lips when I kiss them.
But I want you to know that this mindset did (does) not come easily, not naturally. That I had (have–almost daily still, it seems!) to work to get to this place, as some of us have to and will. You know who I’m talking to out there–you are not alone. We will relish our barnacles together and later, when they’re driving on I-5 and asking to stay out past curfew, we’ll sip our long-awaited margaritas and reminisce about the time they used to sleep with our nipple resting on their cheeks.