Arvind loves this bedtime story. The one where I tell him about how privileged I was to cradle him in my stomach for 9 months. How I loved every minute of feeling him grow and move and stretch within me. How his father would lie with his head on my stomach touching him and talking to him every night as we delighted in perceived elbows, feet, hands and head. All the kisses that rained on the stomach that bore him. The songs I used to sing to him, particularly Come Away With Me and Beautiful Boy.
It is his favourite love story.
Tonight, post narration, his thoughtful head on my shoulder, he says this:
“So you loved me more when I was in your tummy than you love me now?”
My boy. Not just cutting close to the bone, but straight to the heart.
Of course I say, “Of course not.” And then I stare in the darkness at that naked half-truth.
The romantic notion of a child was easy. Loving the idea of my son was simple. That blank canvas was my great comfort. The intimate physical and spiritual relationship in utero that you couldn’t screw up with words, wounding looks and irreverant thoughts. The idea, the potential, the possibility of the perfect connection. See why romantics are doomed?
And now. Separate physical entities with strong personalities. Both headstrong and stubborn. Both moody. Both sensitive and tough. Sometimes hard. Always articulate. Hurlings words that splinter. Whispering words that warm.
I never bargained for finding my twin soul in my son – a son who outwardly could not be more different.
Yet we are the same. When we collide, its the armageddon. When we are one, the joy lifts us to another plane altogether. The blessing and the curse of that rarest of connections – the mirror to yourself.
It is harder to love someone who is so much you. Especially when you have not arrived full circle with the concept of loving yourself – warts and all. Sometimes it is easier to lash out at you, my love, than to haul myself up for a good look in the mirror. Sometimes the anger directed at you is no more than my incomprehension of myself. My frustration with those pieces of me that I would have loved to spare you, only genetics obviously had a different plan.
All those years ago, nursing those lofty notions of motherly love, I never realised that loving you – really loving you in flesh and spirit – would require such a rearrangement of my inner self. I never realised then that knowing you and loving you would be the single most important pathway to learning to love myself.
Epilogue: I forgot everything today. I forgot gym shoes, I forgot new toothbrushes, I forgot snacks. I sat defeated on the sofa and apologized to my son for being a terrible mother who forgets things. Without looking up, without taking his eyes of his toy, he replies in an even voice, “No you’re not. You are a wonderful mother. The perfect mother.”
*gulp* Yes, I know an undeserving compliment when I hear it, but it sweetens life nonetheless.