100 Days of Motherhood: 35
Mom, can I sit on your lap?” Paul asks, stroking my arm.
His face looks a little more big-boy than I remember because just yesterday, Daddy took a scissors and snipped until bright red curls covered the kitchen floor. It was necessary because the boy could barely see.
But I’m partial to bright red curls and baby-faced boys, and I can’t help feeling a little sorry about how grown-up he looks.
“You want to cuddle with me?” I say to the grey-blue eyes that look up at me.
Paul nods, making his face long in an attempt to look as pathetic as possible.
It works every time.
I nab him up into my lap and squeeze him tight. Paul’s dimple shows because I fell for his trick.
He drapes a lazy arm around my neck and says, “You smell adorbubble,” and gives me an impish smile that lifts up the freckles on his cheeks and makes me want to kiss them. I can’t resist that.
“Ack! Kisses!” he squeals, but he turns his cheek toward me instead of away.
We sit together rocking, we two. His hair tickles my nose and he strokes my arm and I think about how I have almost used up all the cuddle time I have been given because he is bigger today than he ever was before. Soon, he won’t fit on my lap. It is almost over, and I don’t want it to be over, not yet.
I wonder at how I’ve changed, how these five little people have worn away the parts that didn’t fit. When I first became a mother, the constant closeness with another human felt suffocating. Someone was on me all the time, and I was desperate to be able to carve out a little space in the world to be alone.
I’d listen to the clock in the hall and watch the birds fly outside the window while I waited, weighed down with nursing or a child who wouldn’t sleep and I’d think about how I couldn’t wait to put that baby down, shake out my arms, and be free.
Now here I am, holding on to this boy who loves to hold on to me, and I do not want to be free at all.
Time is funny that way. It wears you in. It makes things fit that once rubbed you raw.
Of all my children, it is Paul who has worn down my independence the most because it is Paul who lingers closest. It is Paul who is so unlike me in his need for nearness. It is Paul who makes me think I’ll miss these days when I can hardly get a moment to myself.
Soon, I will miss these days.
I stare at his face and try to remember the first time I saw him. It is a hazy dream because of the medication and the fierce lights of the operating room that made it hard to open my eyes, but if I try, I can be right there in an instant.
“This one has red hair!” the nurse exclaimed. Just seconds before, Paul’s twin had flown by my eyes. I had only a moment to stare in wonder at Micah before Paul came bellowing through, but that was long enough to know that Paul had red hair and Micah did not.
“Do any of your other kids have red hair?”
“No!” I said, and laughed out loud because I had always wanted a redhead, and it was just like God to give me that frivolous little gift just because, at the end, like a love note pressed into the hand when the good-byes are being said.
That red hair was just for me.
Paul knows it, and he holds it in his eyes like a secret. “We have red hair, right Mom?” he says, and grins with a grin that is two parts mischief and one part reckless, unbounded joy. He can’t hold in a giggle. It bubbles up from deep in his belly and ripples through the house.
I smile every time I hear it because that is Paul.
Paul who thanks God every night for the pretty horses and Jesus dying on the cross. Paul who once burst into tears in the middle of Rite Aid because Kya told him she wouldn’t marry him that day. Paul who can’t talk to me without touching me. Paul who wiggles and squirms next to me in church until I am exhausted and he is content because he knows we are close.
We are not very much alike that way, I’m afraid.
Sometimes, I step back when he reaches out for me. Sometimes, I tell him he must stop tugging on my pants. Sometimes, I tell him I want him to go outside.
Then he looks at me and says, “But Mom, if I go outside, you will be all-a-lonely,” and the mischief goes from his eyes and I know he’s aching for me because he is too little to know that we are different.
He can only see how we are the same. He wants us to be the same.
And I wonder at God who has the sense of humor to give me a boy with my red hair and a personality so unlike my own. It is the truer gift, I know, to give me a child who can’t let me indulge the selfishness and independence that is my tendency.
Because Paul has sharpened me, like iron to iron, and I have become a little less reclusive, a little less independent, a little less ready to shake out my arms and be free.
By the grace of God, we are becoming more the same.
In fact, I think I’d like to stay here for a while. Maybe there is time to linger a little longer with a little boy who has red hair just like me.