Sunday, December 04, 2005

not your touchy-feely mother

Today's New York Times featured a Style section commentary about maternal desire that made me re-think some stuff that's been going on around here lately.

I'll say upfront that I'm not the most physically expressive person in the world. Last year, on Election Night (after I had spent most of the year working to defeat George Bush), my boss came up and gave me a hug. "I know you're not a huggy person," she said, "but I think everyone needs a hug tonight." I endured it, but the truth was that I really didn't need a hug. I needed a stiff drink. But that's neither here nor there.

When the Bee was born, I got religion on the physical expression of love. (Well, obviously there was some physical love involved BEFORE the Bee was born. Ahem. Moving on. Again.) I was touching her all the time, doing all kinds of attachment parenting, co-sleeping, playing, breastfeeding, cuddling, tickling, sling-ing, you name it--if involved wonderfully soft baby skin, I was all over it. It didn't change my personality overnight--in fact, at point, landisdad and I were having a lot of conflict because I was feeling so drained from all the physical contact with her that I never ever wanted to touch him, not just sexually, but at all. But I did change.

As the Bee got bigger, she became addicted to what she grew to call "thumby," which was her name for either my or landisdad's thumbs. She would hold our thumb as she fell asleep, slowly stroking the thumbnail. And if you tried to take it away from her, she'd wake up and cry. (We didn't make this mistake with the Potato, fwiw.) We broke her of the thumby addiction, but it was painful for all of us.

Since the Bee has gotten even bigger, I'm less tolerant of her efforts to remain physically attached to me. Obviously, I committed the ultimate betrayal by having another child, and having a similarly physical relationship to him. The Potato, for a variety of reasons (some involving the protection of parental sanity, some involving me getting a contagious disease when he was six months old and having to wean him practically overnight) has had a less-attached life. But still, he's two, and we can carry him around, and turn him upside down, and we just can't do those things with her anymore. She weighs 50 pounds, and she's four feet tall, but inside, she still wants to be treated like a cuddly toddler sometimes. Just this evening, the three of us were going upstairs to get them changed into their pajamas, and she grabbed me around the waist, and said, "I'm never going to let you go, we're going to be attached forever!"

And that's the kind of thing that works my last nerve.

A day ago, my response would have been something along the lines of "get off, Bee, that's not safe." But today, I just said, "why don't we hold hands instead?" I know it won't be much longer that she wants to be my little girl. A moment will pass, and she won't even want to be seen with me in public, much less hold my hand.

The Bee has been all kinds of crazy for the last few weeks. I've mostly written it off to excitement about the holidays, recent visits from various family members, and a reduction in exercise (since it's been getting colder). I'm seeing her behavior through a new lens, now, and I don't like what I'm seeing. I'm seeing a girl who loves me so much, that she literally does want to be attached to me, and instead of me reciprocating that love, I'm basically telling her to go away. If I were in her shoes, I'd be acting out too.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/04/2005 06:55:00 PM
  2. My daughter is the Bumblebee. My son is the Sweet Potato. You'll have to ask their father.

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