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I wanted to sit down today and write a lighthearted post about anything that isn’t what is on everyone’s mind. But as I sit here, I realize I’m not ready to do that yet. Maybe tomorrow.

I wrote about it yesterday over at Pooping Rainbows. (Check them out; lots of good writing over there.) I will share it here today.

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Everything is different

My husband has a dangerous job. I’ve become quite skilled over the years at pushing the fear and worry of whether or not he will come home each day far into the back of my mind because I have to. To spend each day in fear of the unknown would destroy me. And so, I choose to believe it will all be OK and he will return each evening to kiss his children.

Like so many others, the tragedy that occurred on Friday has changed me. There is a chink in my armor, a crack in my foundation. I suppose this is my Kennedy assassination — a world event changing me to the very core. I’ve been walking around in a fog with a pit in my stomach I just can’t shake. I’m crying at random moments and having a lot of trouble watching the news. I’ve sobbed through first-hand accounts and stared at the pictures of those tiny faces for far too long. Since Friday I’ve hardly done more than hold my children. My oldest — two and half — told me I was squeezing him too tight. If only he knew it wasn’t tight enough.

I alternate between wanting to watch, read and talk about anything that isn’t this, and not understanding how anyone could think of anything but. I carry guilt as I wrap Christmas presents because my children will have the chance to open them.

As I write this, parents across the country are putting their babies on the school bus for the first time since Friday and I just don’t know how they are doing it. How are they letting go of their little hands and watching them drive away? When will that simple routine feel normal again?

The fears I keep at bay are threatening so very hard to bubble to the surface. Hell, they’re at the surface. They’re threatening to spill over. I know that at some point I will have to let go and send those I love out into the world without fear, I’m just not sure how to do that anymore.

Every night before I go to bed, I check in on my babies. Owen is usually sprawled out on his back at some interesting angle, blanket askew, his “Mommy shirt”, an old t-shirt of mine he made his blankie, draped across him. I gently tuck him back in, occasionally removing his wedged feet from between the bed slats, brush his hair off his forehead, kiss him gently and tip toe out.

Next is the baby. I turn the light on in my bedroom across the hall so I will have just enough light to see him, but not enough for him to wake. He looks like the world’s sweetest little starfish zipped into his blanket. Ryan will have rotated to his right — he always does — and will have pressed his face against the one bumper I have in there. The one bumper I put back in because he kept waking himself up trying to snuggle himself into the crib rails. I have stopped stressing about him sleeping like that now, but I always pause just long enough to see the rise and fall of his chest.

It occurs to me that my children will never know I do these things. They might remember the story hours I took them to, the outings at the playground. They might one day remind me of the pictures we drew together or the songs we danced around the living room to. They will know I parented them all day every day, but the memories of the night will be mine alone.

At night I am transported both back in time, and towards the future. Ryan’s dewy skin and sleepy suckling are all baby, and Owen’s rosy cheeks remind me of when he was tiny. The other night, though, before my eyes adjusted to the dark, I caught a glimpse of who my little boy will become. In the dark, Owen’s sleeping profile was so strikingly similar to his father’s, I actually gasped.

Babies don’t keep, but these nights will. In my mind. In my heart. In the dark.

 

Last night Owen stopped what he was doing and stared down the hallway. “What’s that man doing?”, he asked me.

Man? What man? There was no man. I asked him to clarify. He plays pretend now, so I thought maybe he was being silly.

“That man! The one RIGHT THERE!” he replied, pointing at seemingly nothing. “Hes right there, Mommy. Why is he sad?”

He was so insistent that I started to feel a little strange. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Don’t people say children can see…ghosts?

I know. I KNOW. That’s one of the most absurd things a rational adult could say.

But.

It was getting just a little too The Sixth Sense up in here. Owen was still staring down the hall and pointing, and if it wasn’t a ghost, then at the very least there was something human-like my kid was seeing and I’ve seen enough bad TV to know that means get the hell out. Don’t answer the door. Don’t talk about your favorite scary movie.

I was just about to grab something heavy and venture down the hall (though, if it was a ghost, I’m not sure how effective a Mag-Lite to the head would be…) when Owen added a missing piece to the puzzle.

“See, Mommy! The man is dancing in the window!”

OH. RIGHT.

That right there would be Twist, the doofy, beat boxing DJ from The Fresh Beat Band. Reflected in the window.

Let’s just pretend I never told you this story. As you were.

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