Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mothering by Feel

Lily Ruth has not been well this week. This does not mean that she has been sick. Rather, she suffers from a vague malaise. She's tired and out of sorts. Gently congested and coughing intermittently. She has been requesting "pajamas, stories, brush teeth then rock" around 7 or 7:30 every night. 

She lists around the house complaining about everything and picking fights with anyone who will listen. Her usual spark of determination is being used to light pathetic tantrums full of crocodile tears and slammed doors. Honestly, I thought we had a bit more time before the pre-teen years. I guess I was misinformed.

It doesn't help that all of her friends seem to be experiencing the same phase. Sinus crud is par for the course around these parts in January, and most of her close friends are very close to her age, so the typical 3 1/2 year old breakthrough combined with an extra lack of energy is knocking them out left and right. Playdates  are tentative and nothing is set in stone until a friend actually walks through the door. Cancellations and rescheduling are the order of the day. Much energy is spent redirecting disappointment into something else. 

Yesterday, Lily Ruth was in her carseat bemoaning her lack of a plan for something fun to do. She interrupted herself with a hacking cough fit. When she finished, I asked if she was all right, and if she needed a sip of water. She turned down the water, and with perfect three year old logic, she threw aside her friend woes and said "See, Mama - I told you I don't feel good. This is why I can't go to school." But it wasn't a school day. School had not been mentioned. Less than 2 minutes before, her world was practically a wasteland. Barren and completely devoid of companionship or fun. All of which is obviously my fault. Now, she's practically consumptive and in need of a fainting couch and a restorative cordial STAT.


After another early night for Lily Ruth, Her daddy and I tucked ourselves in for some grownup t.v. and some quiet time. Don fell asleep long before I did. This is not a surprise. He wakes up incredibly early in the morning in order to be home in time to play with his daughter and share dinner as a family. I settled in with my kindle fire to read and unwind on my own. 

Lily Ruth padded in somewhere close to midnight. I love to watch her do this. She pauses at our doorway, and assesses the dog's position. Then she carefully navigates around Keely and says "hi, Mommy" as she reaches for my hand and crawls up and over me. Last night, she paused and added "I need my agua." Some nights, I send her back for her cup and her blanket on her own. Last night, I told her that I would get it. When I returned, she was snuggled in next to her daddy, with her head on my pillows. I handed over her water ("Gan-you, Mama.") and began the process of settling my old body and my baby belly into the bed. These days, it's a bit of a production. 

I was barely settled when she started another coughing fit. When it ended, she fell asleep immediately - thumb hanging crookedly from the corner of her mouth. Nose completely clogged by congestion. Stale breath blowing directly onto my face. I wanted so much to be asleep. Instead, I began another ritual. One that I do any time that Lily Ruth is unwell and asleep. I don't even know really how to describe it, but I am so compelled to do it, that it feels hardwired. I just start checking her out. One kiss on the forehead becomes a routine of pressing my face to hers. Lips to forehead. Cheek to cheek. Forehead to chin. My hands press softly to her back then her chest and belly. I move her feet so that they press onto my thigh. All checking for what? Temperature differences, sweat, bumps? I don't even know. But it's instinctive. All I know is that if I don't do it, I'll just wake up in a few minutes and have to do it then. It makes me feel like a true mammal. I can't help but wonder if I'm not meant to snuffle into her hair for pheromones and lick her once or twice as well... I don't do those things, but if I thought they'd help, I would... Instead, I move her face farther from mine, tuck her water cup into the crook of her arm, and join the rest of my pack in sleep. Sweet, dream-filled, open-mouthed-snoring sleep.

A tired Lily Ruth "rests" with Sam


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