If my baby were an adult, this week I would call him callous. If he were a grown up, aware of how tired both this parents are from an emotionally and physically exhausting week, I would probably be furious at him for his behaviour towards us.
Our family have suffered a great loss in the last few days, and I’m feeling drained, contemplative, emotional, and in need of some serious me-time. My son however, is just as he always is. Eager to be entertained, wide awake (as we all would be if we were allowed 15 hours sleep a day), somewhat whingy, and constantly in need of our full attention. What is usually part of the job, and at worst, moderately frustrating, has this week become almost impossible.
I got home on Tuesday morning at about 6am. My son woke up with his usual vigour at around 7. I sleepwalked into his room, muttered the morning prayer of Modeh Ani to him, with none of my usual halfhearted bounce, (half is good for me-I am the opposite of a morning person.) and lifted him out of his cot. He grinned at me, and started pressing my nose, the cue for a cheery rendition of “The wheels on the bus.”
Washed out. Devastated. Exhausted. Lost. A few of the words that described how I felt at that moment, having only hours before watched a man I loved leave this world. How could I play with my baby, smile and sing and laugh with him, when I cant even explain to him yet, “Ima doesnt feel too good today” or “A sad thing has happened.” For R, the world was exactly the same place it was when I said goodnight twelve hours previously. For me, everything had changed, and I was overcome with a desire to put him down on the floor, leave him the open box of cheerios, and climb back under my waiting duvet.
And then I had a moment of utmost clarity. I was holding in my arms, a baby. My baby. Entirely innocent, and thank God, entirely without hurt or pain over this or any other incident in the world. (Lack of breadsticks exempting.) That’s the way of the world, and that’s the way it should be. As heartbroken as I am, he doesnt even know how to feel that emotion, let alone recognise it in my own eyes. And I’m so glad. He has plenty of time to learn how to sympathise with other people’s pain, and discover the right platitudes to say. For now, he is completely and totally selfish, and nothing could be better for him.
And perhaps for me too. Coming home, and seeing my son, playing with him, being forced to smile and laugh, only reinforces the nature of our lives. As we say goodbye to the older generation, we step into the shoes of the middle. This week, I truly feel like I’ve grown in countless ways, but not least out of being a child, in a very real way. Taking on responsibilities that may have rightly been my own late fathers, accepting that life is finite and precious in a way I’ve never embraced before, and stepping up into a more adult and mature role in our family. All of these things have changed me.
Looking at my baby boy, who has years and years to explore the ways of the world and struggle with the beauty and hardship of all these emotions, I know that he is truly blessed in his self-centredness, and that there is enough time in the future where he will no doubt be deprived of that without me taking it away from him now, in his babyhood.
And so I kissed his tiny forehead, gave him an extra little squeeze, and began at his favourite part, the middle of the song. “The horn on the bus goes.. beep beep beep!”
After all, why should he have to wait?