He walked up to me last night, a little waif in a white tank, all pale skin and blond hair, and those eyes — god, those eyes. He reached his arms up to me with that little bounce that begs to be picked up, and I took his hand and led him into his bedroom where I could lift him up on the bed and cuddle him close. I sat down and he pulled in close and patted my breast to ask to nurse. And something about the look on his face, the set of his chin, I asked him if he was okay. And his face crumpled, his eyes ringed with red, and he pressed his face into my shoulder and his body shook like he was going to start sobbing. I curled him into my body and asked if he was in trouble, knowing I hadn’t heard him get scolded before he walked upstairs. And he just reached to me, his whole body telling me that something was wrong but he didn’t know how to say what. I stroked his hair and kissed his forehead and swung his legs around so that he could nurse, always our way to cuddle close for comfort. He turned into me and latched on (so big! oh, he’s so big compared to her now!) curling inward, his eyes fluttering up under the lids, his bare feet (and his legs are so long!) paddling each other against my crossed leg on the opposite side. And his body melted back into mine, curving and contouring against my now flat belly, his hand twitching absently as he started to rub my arm as if assuring himself that I was actually there. And his breathing slowed, his mouth slowly coming slack away, and as I pulled away to break the latch, he rolled over in my lap, eyes still closed and breathed out the murmured word,
A prayer and a recognition in one, naming me and his place in the world, a whispered entreaty not to be left again. Looking down at him, flushed cheeks and contentment, my heart broke again for him.
It’s been a hard few days for us, as a family and for us in particular. On Saturday, all he saw of me was a kiss and a promise to have sister with me the next time I saw him as I walked out the front door; Manly admitted to me later that he didn’t see him at all before we left. We were gone for two nights and two days, to the point where by Sunday night he was bringing a picture of us to my mom and trying to pull her to the front door to come to us. And since that point, the tiny usurper has been in our arms or our laps almost continuously. She’s so small and her needs are so big, and in comparison he looks so grown up — but he’s just a baby still himself, with no words to tell us how he feels and such big emotions that he’s left to work through almost alone. And I feel like I have completely failed him, failed to prepare him for how this change was going to be. Failed to love him enough by himself while I had the chance, failed to help him through this new arrival, failed to express to him enough how much I love him and how he will always be my baby, my son, the one who made me into a mother, and how she or any future others will never change that. When he arrived, he broke me into pieces, shattered who I was into a thousand shards and rebuilt them one by one into who I am. Now, he’s breaking me again, showing all the places where I am going to fail them eventually, showing me that I cannot protect him the way I want to. Showing me that although I want nothing more in the world than to keep him from pain, I am going to have to let him find his way and do the best I can to prepare him for that. It’s something I have known that would come, but until now I have been able to shield us both from that. And it hurts. God, it hurts.