Eight years ago today, I had our son, Jack, and his arrival in our lives remains the best thing that ever happened to us by an exponential factor of about a thousand. Even with all the distress that comes with having a child, we wouldn’t give him back, although we periodically talk to him about his habit of waking us whenever he feels he needs attention. We should not be surprised, as he established this pattern with a 2:36 a.m. birth, a most uncivilized hour and one he continued to celebrate during his first several months of life. Like good little prisoners of war, we’ve now come to rejoice in our small freedoms, which include uninterrupted sleep, solo trips to the bathroom, and leaving the dinner table without stickiness or angst because someone didn’t finish his peas.
My youngest brother, a loving and devoted father to all 70 of his children (okay, so his household only contains four, but, gosh, they make such a ruckus) will tell you kids are vampires. He says this with the most adoring expression possible, like he’s uttering an endearment, so you know he doesn’t mean to actually stake them. But all of us who are parents understand what he’s thinking: kids put a big straw in you every morning and suck out everything you have until, exhausted, you send them to bed, where they go kicking and screaming and still demanding more. Like you don’t know the fourth request for water or a snack or to go to the bathroom is really a ploy to put you in prison. “Listen, honey,” you might say. “You must know you’re driving me nuts, but no matter what you do, I won’t kill you.” You say this even though you’re not so sure it’s true.
With all that, you don’t kill them. You fuss over them and worry over them and fight for them, and you dredge up more than you ever thought you had in you to give, and then you steal whatever you can’t call forth. It’s the closest to God I’ve ever gotten, loving my son, because no matter what I do or don’t get back, whether he’s full of affection or wants nothing to do with me, even if I’m in bed with the flu, I’m devoted. It’s a miracle, really, in this age of self-actualization and transactional relationships, that I feel so fulfilled giving everything and expecting nothing in return, but I do. So, thanks for being born, honey, and happy birthday from your mother who loves you like mad.
(But, just so you know, I would feel more fulfilled if you let us sleep in.)