I’m evaluating my *other* writing projects right now, and realizing I write about mothers constantly. Probably because I’m so deep into the nurturing phase that is early childhood, I am studying the mother-child relationship from all angles.
Recently, I realized something stunning and beautiful. (Before I share it, you should know that I have a brilliant and funny husband, and our marriage is one of the good ones. This will help you calibrate the intimacy in my life.)
Here it is: The relationship between mothers and young children, particularly nurslings, is the most intimate of all human relationships.
I know everything that goes into their little bodies, and I see everything that comes out. I know how much sleep they get, and whether the sleep was good. They have preferences and favorites and foods they absolutely will not eat, and I have to know it all. If my husband expected these things of me, I would go berserk.
For these short years, as my helpless newborns grow into schoolgirls, I am still a part of them. We are sharing our lives in a very intimate way. There is love, yes, but there is feeding and cleaning and teaching and explaining and helping them understand that life is not fair. My heart broke yesterday when 2008 asked me why some people hit. There is heartbreak and there is joy.
There are also French kisses, because my baby thinks licking other people’s teeth is hilarious.
Beneath it all, there there also is a slow process of moving further and further from each other. 2008 has started having preschool experiences that I do not share. 2010 has started remembering her dreams, which gives her some mental privacy. They are carving out pieces of the world for themselves, and it is amazing.
**Photo Credit: Jodi
Little 2008 is challenging my perceptions. I used to loathe Halloween, because I hate asking for things. When 2008 went trick-or-treating for the first time, I ditched my Halloween baggage to revel in her joy. She got to dress up? And people gave her candy? And she rode in the wagon? AWESOME.
Today, she turned Valentine's Day around for me. Opening her valentines--and treats! More than at Halloween--she was radiant. "Dominic made this for me!" "Elise wrote her name!" "Hope sent treats!"
She wore hearts, and our house is covered in pink and purple and red. We ate special pancakes and made up silly songs about love and family and Valentine's. She loves it all. Valentine's Day really can be about fun love.
I know my kids feel loved, and not just because we tell them every day. We are nurturing their childhoods, and I am proud of that. But today, 2008 feels loved by her friends. She knows other kids think of her (maybe) as often as she thinks of them. She treasures those valentines, Disney characters and all.
And, on the way home from school, there were no tears when she let go of her mylar balloon. "Maybe it will land in someone's yard far away. Someone who doesn't have a valentine. And then he will be happy."
Yes, sweetheart, he will. And a very Happy Valentine's Day to you, my sweet 2008.
Wednesday morning, 2010 woke up with a barky cough. Via phone, her pediatrician diagnosed her with mild coup and effectively quarantined us until 24 hours after her fever broke. Just as it did, though, 2008's temperature spiked.
The only thing worse than having sick kids is being sick while caring for sick kids. Lucky for us, 1977 and I are still healthy. But the kids have been keeping us up all night with the barking and hacking and incessant neediness.
2008 watched 90 minutes of movies today. We worked on her alphabet and tracing skills. 2010 discovered all the ducks she ever wanted on YouTube. We read books and had baths and spent an hour outside depleting their energy with fresh snow. 2010 did not eat a single bite until dinner. They are both exhausted.
Two or three hours from now, they will wake and realize they are feeling punk all alone in their rooms, and we will be invited to crawl into their beds to snuggle. 2010 will let me rock her for hours throughout the night.
And tomorrow morning, 2008 will snuggle in my lap for dozens of picture books. Having sick kids sucks, but having two girls who want nothing more than to snuggle and love all day? There are worse things.
Until three years ago, I loved winter. Instead of longing for the beach, we hunkered down with books in January and emerged from our caves rejuvenated for spring.
Then 2008 was born. Even that winter was fabulous. A baby! Parenthood! Sleep deprivation!
But since then, winters have been long and grey and cold. Wrangling babies into winter accoutrements is just no fun. Add to that slush, lost mittens and the occasional soaked-child-without-snowpants, and I have started to dread winter.
It is upon us only now. Until this week, there has been no snow. Two weeks ago, 2008 was wearing flip flops in our yard. We rode bikes to the park and played without jackets. Last week we spent hours at playgrounds, but now the end is nigh. No more daily walks. No more casual chats with the neighbors. No more lingering conversations with other moms as we wait for the kids to emerge from preschool.
Now everyone will scuttle into her own house, and I fear that I will become one of those things I hate most: people who complain about the weather.
Please, kids, enjoy the snow! And cabin fever, be brief.
I do most of my writing while sitting on my sofa. On the opposite wall hangs a small oil painting I received on my fifth anniversary. The painting is of a small child--a toddler, probably--at the nape of his mother's neck. I love this painting. Love it.
So much of my writing is about young children and mothers, because that's where I am in life. Young (or not so young) mothers and very young children fill my mornings and days. I love this time of life.
I think most Bacon families refer to their little ones as Bits. It's cute, right? When our children were hypothetical, we referred to them as the Bits too. Then we got pregnant, and each child earned her own little nickname, and now they each have several.
Here, though, I don't want to use new nicknames, even cutesy ones referring to other portions of the swine. Neither one is a ham. My husband would be, what? The spare rib? (Get it? I sometimes think I'm hilarious, you know.) Maybe a subsequent baby could be the rump instead of caboose, but nothing else really fits.
For now, since I love numbers, I'll refer to my family by birthdate, 2008 and 2010 for the girls and 1977 for my spouse. I can't really preserve my own anonymity here, but since you asked, I was born in 1975.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm obsessive. Whether I'm focused on finding the perfect birthday present or organizing an area of the house or starting a new business, I attack projects with a singular focus.
I also am freakishly particular about maintaining lists.
It will come as no surprise, then, that when we decided to have children I maintained a spreadsheet of 2056 baby names. (You know I'm not making up that number, because it's not prime.) In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I'd been maintaining lists of favorite baby names since college, or perhaps high school. Once we were ready to actually consider naming real people, I threw my lists into excel and added the most popular baby names for the past few decades. I added a column for our last name. (Because I like Beatrice, but Beatrice Bacon is a mouthful.) And then I rated them. I send my top 100 to my husband via email and he whittled the list to a couple dozen, and we worked from there.
My spouse nixed some of my favorite names: Cecelia, Genevieve, Gretchen, Mabel, Penelope, Emmett, Felix. I really had to let go of Nina and Vivian and Hector, and in some sense that was difficult.
The fact is, we were looking for four names, max--eight names if you include middles--and I had nearly 100 names that I liked. That's one thing I love about writing. I will never have my own Natalie, but two characters just chose that name for their daughter. There's not enough space in my family (or my house!) for June, Andrew, Sophie, Molly, Violet or Tadj. . .but I have 63 Gigs free on my hard drive and I can build a new bookcase.
What's more, names that have been ruined for me for life (Patricia!) are ideal for villains. I love having fun with them.
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: