Yesterday, my daughter, now two years and two months, who still nestles into me for nursing both day and night, who nuzzles my nose and says "You look beautiful in your nightgown, Mommy," who demands that I be the sole interpreter of the narrator's voice in all her picture books, who cries for me in the night, this child held up her hand in protest when I entered the room in which she and her father were at play. Daddy was building a Byzantine structure and they were choosing where to put the elevator or something.
"No MOMMY! Don't speak. It's quiet time! Goodbye!" And with that, she slammed the door. I laughed. I could finish my coffee in peace. It's about time my husband served the sentence of most favored nation status and his crossword puzzles go unattended for a while.
I promised my husband I would write a funny post. It's been two days since Daddy's arms have been the preferred method of transit, Daddy's arms the preferred vehicle in which to dance, Daddy's block building skills the preferred method of construction. As I ponder the chill wind that I can't help feel swirling round me, I think of Dante:
In the middle of the journey of our lifeThat's a real thigh-slapper, I know.
I found myself in a dark wood,
For I had lost the right path.
For me, the quote encompasses my daughter's sudden shift in affection. To be sure, she and I still cuddle, and in the last few days it's possible there was an instance in which she needed Mommy more than Daddy to witness a feat like diving off the bed or painting a red line with her watercolor brush. Although I'm not sure that's true. For two days, she needs Daddy to bear witness to all, and Mommy's input is not only irrelevant but intrusive.
There's something else the quote stirs in me. It refers to "the right path." We've been on the "right path" for so long, my daughter and I. Of course I am as tired as any other parent, as longing for free time and even for time to waste -- especially for time to waste-- but our days have been harmonious. I told my husband today that perhaps I could see it as a result of good mothering, my child's confident rejection of my services, her lack of need to curry favor must somehow mean I am a swell mother who has given her the security to wound me deeply (without meaning to.) I also suspect this is an important act of differentiation from the person she has overlapped with so thoroughly for the length of her whole life.
It also means that her father is a very loving and involved father who builds a mean Byzantine structure and an equally mean fruit smoothie.
Honestly, I am enthralled by her molting the shell we have shared for two years. Maybe I'm rattled not by losing the path my daughter and I have been on since her birth. Maybe I'm scared of carving the path I need to go alone once more.
In the middle of the journey I am in a dark wood. When my child was an infant, we took long, indulgent summertime naps, limbs entwined in a cool room, escaping the heat together. I stared at her silky skin and knew that in the time of my life, I needed to live! (to slightly misquote William Sayoran.) And I did. I smelled her and stroked that cherubic face and exhaled. I did the best I could, but time passes. And thank goodness for that because no one can keep up the work of infant and toddler care forever. We don't have enough resources for that. And besides, we want more. We need to find our old path or our new path, or maybe--a bridge.
We need to find the bridge that connects the two paths. I have no doubt we'll be back on a path together soon enough. But I need a bridge, both to connect her path and mine and at the same time to distinguish them from each other.
Well, husband dear, are you holding your sides from laughter? Are the tears just rolling down your cheeks? Perhaps, but I suppose not the kind you wanted.
I'll try hard to be funny soon. Maybe for Father's Day?
This time I'll offer instead some inspiration, again, from Dante. He lost the path but after much trial, the wanderer emerges.
E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.
And so we came forth, and once again beheld the stars.