Caterpillar Baby

I can feel eyes on me in the dark, watching and waiting.

It is my baby, swaddled, from his bedside bassinet with bright eyes that reflect the glow of the nightlight, like two oil slicks on the pavement.

He is a caterpillar, tightly bundled, with his arms to his sides, wiggling and inching his way closer to me.

I watch the little bug with the face of a human, the sprout of a person, move and struggle against the confines of his swaddle, ready to break free and to unfurl his undeveloped wings.

Not yet, my little caterpillar.

His brother is made of stardust and this boy is of the earth.

Together, they are my universe.

Four Frogs

They sat mostly side by side on the couch, four exhausted frogs on a log, in front of a glowing tv screen.

Thomas, the Train was beginning to feel like part of the family as he puffed out story after story, 11 minutes at a time, occupying the toddler and giving his parents a break from chasing him through the house. Their count had just gone up by one and the change was being felt by all, with the baby having the easiest time of it.

“Eat, sleep, poop,” the pediatrician prescribed earlier in the week while wearing a mask, tennis shoes and jeans; apparently, it was a Casual Covid-19 Tuesday.

“That’s all he needs to be doing,” he addressed the couple from a short stool and then spun to face the woman, “and you just need to feed him.”

Easy as that.

At that point, it was not something that the mother needed to be told. The baby was already very clear about his agenda. He was born with a powerful set of lungs that he had, thus far, used exclusively to request more milk. His mother assumed the sweet coos and giggles would come later, but first, they had to put in the hard work and long hours.

It was a job that the scrunch-faced-baby’s mother took seriously and consumed most of her time, energy and calories. Of course, keeping up with the needs of the scrunch-faced-baby was not without its cost to the rest of the household. There was a scattering of crumbs throughout the house that read like a brail sidewalk, leading the resident toddler over his path from the kitchen to the living room to his play area. Dishes lounged in grey water in the sink and the laundry had already accumulated into a small mountain that if not secured in the laundry room would have been scaled by the quickly becoming feral toddler.

Fortunately, the toddler was not altogether neglected as he made sure to always remain underfoot and nearby, tugging at his daddy’s shirt or poking at the baby’s belly. Presently, he had a glob of jelly on his face and a matching smear on his shirt which was not unusual, aside from the fact that he had cereal for breakfast and a turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch.

He clearly had strong survival skills.

From the couch, the woman, wife and mother let her heavy eyelids drop down and felt herself slip into a blissful rest that lasted all of a minute before the baby simultaneously released a juicy gust of wind and a wail of hunger. As she wondered how one extra small person could create so much extra everything, the toddler suddenly popped up and ran to the kitchen for a snack while her husband’s head dropped back and a mighty snore escaped from his opened mouth.

This was her crazy life and her heart was full.

four frogs

 

As Right as Rain

A cool breeze rustled the leaves in a way that promised of a break from the heat. Overhead, a sky of bright blue was littered with fat grey and white clouds. The woman hoped for a drenching rain so she wouldn’t have to lug the watering can across the yard. She could practically hear the garden crying out for water.

It just felt so far away and her legs were so heavy.

“What do you think, Little Legs, do you want to water the garden?”

He pretended not to hear his mother as he continued to splash and dump water onto his head from the water table. For those who aren’t familiar, a water table is a brightly colored, plastic receptacle that holds water and is set up on legs just high enough for a toddler to reach in and quickly make a soaking wet mess. It also happened to be his parents’ latest attempt to amuse and distract their incredibly active child. So far it was working brilliantly.

“Little Legs?” his mother repeated herself giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Surely, it was too early for him to ignore her. How could he have learned the ways of the world at such a tender age and with the last few months of that tender age being spent in quarantine? Could this be from the cheeky influence of Thomas the Train? His mother made a note to monitor cartoon time more closely in the future.

The boy took a cupful of the grimy water and flung it at his mother, splashing her face and chest. Of course, he was not ignoring her, he was simply too busy to answer. He laughed and returned to his work filling up the cup and dumping it on his head.

From an evolutionary standpoint, they were not that far from monkeys. The boy’s mother could easily see the dripping wet boy in front of her as a naughty animal throwing a banana peel or a handful of poop in response to something he didn’t like. However, she still wished that he would use words as she wiped the water from her glasses.

Life was about to change for her monkey boy. His baby monkey brother was due to make his appearance in less than a week’s time. Soon the boy would have to share everything, including his parents, toys and time, with a noisy creature who would quickly double and triple in size and ability.

Little Legs would transition from being an only child to a brother, from one to one of a pair, all while he was still sleeping early on Sunday morning. The initial part of becoming a brother had required nothing from him, aside from a little patience and grace for his slow moving mother; it was the days and months and years to follow that would take work as the two boys evolved from being siblings to brothers to best friends, with any luck.

What moves inside

stardustThere is a creature that temporarily lives within me who demands peanut butter and popsicles.

His brother likes to sing his own version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat while sitting in my lap and playing with Matchbox cars. He uses his unborn brother as a pillow and leans against him or rests his elbow on top of the ever-growing bump when he turns around to make sure I am paying attention. I feel the baby’s arms and legs move, finally big enough to test Little Legs in the beginning of the lifelong push and pull that is unique to siblings.

They are so close to each other, literally separated only by a few layers of tissue and skin when we sit like this, and yet they are still worlds away from one another. One floats in a blissful state, still gathering bits of stardust in his creation while the other waits on the outside, learning about worms and constantly outgrowing his shoes.

Change is hard for everyone. I am still trying to adjust to single spacing between sentences in a fight against my well-trained thumb that automatically hits the space bar twice. However, for children, change seems to be easier. Change is simply part of life as they constantly discover new things and experiences, like teeth where previously there was only a smooth line of gums and the sudden ability to crunch into a carrot when oatmeal and puree were the only options on the menu just a few months ago.

How will my sweet Little Legs deal with the introduction of a baby into the house that he currently rules? How will I find the time and energy to be present for my boys, my husband, myself? I ponder over the uncertainty of the future just as I did before Little Legs was born. And then I remember when my first stardust baby arrived how the questions disappeared and were replaced by instinct on how and what to do next.

Somehow there was enough love, time and energy for everything, but just barely.

Little Legs

 

His little legs wade through the tall grass,

like bright green waves,

each step threatens to pull him down.

He fights through it and reaches up for my hand with his sticky fingers. 

It is a rare moment that he will allow me to help him. 

 

Mr. Independent

The knee-high boy toddles down the quiet road, pulled forward by his own stumbling momentum.  He is a splash of color against a grey day, like a cardinal, in his bright red sweatshirt.  It drapes from his little body and hangs beyond his finger-tips; a hand-me-down still two sizes too big and too nice not to wear.

I capture the Red Flash and roll up his sleeves, one by one, while he loudly protests, obviously aware of the social distancing imperative.  He wriggles free and stops a few steps ahead of me to bend down and pat the asphalt road with both hands.  Finding it hard, unmoving and unmovable, he pops back up, pushing off of the ground from the tripod position.  

We walk side by side for a few steps.

“Do you want to hold Mama’s hand?” I ask in third person and offer my hand.

He shakes his head back and forth fast enough to give flight to the shaggy mop of his hair, it takes on a life of its own, a light brown feathered being, with spread wings.  The creature settles back into place and the boy zooms ahead a few tiny steps and looks back with a laugh and stumbles. 

Of course, I am behind him where I will always be ready if he falls to scoop him up and dust off his bottom and set him right back up to do it all over again.  

COVID-19 is not slowing us down today.

When Daddy Comes Home

The rumble of the garage door opening distracts Mr. Baby from his important work stacking plastic rings on a post.  His little ears and eyes perk up like daffodils after a Spring rain. 

“Dada, dada, dada,” he begins to chant, increasing in volume and force as he bounces up and down.

He toddles over and throws his body into my lap with a demand to be carried to the garage door.  Obviously, the mommy taxi can take him where he wants to go faster than his chubby legs can travel.

At this point, I am chopped liver and accept my new designation.  It has been a long few days on our own.  I carry the tiny tyrant to wait by the garage door and set him down on the rug. 

Unfortunately, the entire process takes too long for Mr. Baby and his patience is wearing thin.  He flexes into a tripod position and pushes off of the ground and up to stand.  He bangs his fists against the door.  He hears the movement of a suitcase, the shuffling of feet and the slam of a car door.

At last, the door knob turns and Mr. Baby’s father appears, travelworn and weary, but glad to be home.

“Hey guys, I missed you.” 

He brings his bags inside, pushes his suitcase out of the way and kneels to hug Mr. Baby.

Mr. Baby holds his arms out and then pivots to chase the rolling suitcase.  He laughs as he makes off with it down the hallway and leaves his father, open armed and crestfallen.

Suddenly, Mr. Baby is back without the suitcase and running into daddy’s arms.

Somedays, we have to laugh to keep from crying as parenthood continues to surprise, delight, crush and challenge us.  Today is one of these days that we can just laugh.

But what about a little brother?

For two days straight, rain fell without stopping from a dark, grey sky.  We couldn’t even get out to splash in puddles or go for a walk through the neighborhood because of the constant rain.  By the third day, we had to get out.  The saying, come hell or high water, finally made sense.  We. Had. To. Get. Out.

An obvious destination was the grocery store as we were getting low on milk and puffs, but running through the pouring rain with Mr. Baby on one hip just to get through the parking lot did not appeal to any part of me.  I had to find a location with covered parking or a spot close enough to the door to run through the raindrops and limit the drenching.

We ended up at the Humane Society with front row parking and a few seconds long jog to the door.

I told Mr. Baby, “Its just like the zoo, but we can take these animals home.” 

He was more interested in the way our umbrella turned the wet, grey sky into a beautiful, dry red with the push of a button as we left the car for the shelter’s door.

We cautiously strolled past cages of barking, snarling, cowering, shivering and apathetic dogs that were sausage shaped, bony, three legged, one eyed, and scruffy.  All of the animals shared one trait in common, they were ready for their furever homes.  Unfortunately, with no creature catching our attention to melt our hearts and to start the adoption application, we headed back towards the door. 

Rain pounded the parking lot, hitting so hard that the water bounced up from the ground as though it was falling upside down.  That’s a definite no, I thought, and redirected our tour towards a stack of cages behind a glass wall filled with scroungy cats.  

And there in the bottom corner of the stack was the heart-melter, the animal just waiting to join our family, the pet we never knew we needed, a huge, white guinea pig.

“Excuse me,” I asked an older woman with a volunteer tag around her neck.  “Could you help us with this guinea pig?”

“We have guinea pigs?” she drawled in the typical, slow Tennessee accent.

Much to her surprise, she followed where Mr. Baby’s finger pointed and peered through the glass.

“Well, look there, it is a guinea pig.  Go sit in one of the viewing rooms and I’ll bring him into see you.”

What a serendipitous day this was shaping up to be, we were going to be guinea pig owners.  My mind leapt to the supplies that the animal would need and where it would sleep, followed by a concern with how my husband would feel about our new roommate. 

“We have to be gentle with the guinea pig, ok?” I coached Mr. Baby while we waited for the volunteer.

He didn’t agree or disagree, rather, he just looked inside of my purse and started pawing through it in search of snacks.

Mr. Baby was thrilled when the guinea pig was delivered.  He squealed in the animal’s face and poked its nose, then he raised both hands in a maneuver that he usually reserved to smash oranges.  I scooped the terrified creature up into my hands, and in that instant, I knew he wasn’t ready for a guinea pig.

 

Thou Shalt Not Nap

The noise was unbearable, worse than nails on a chalkboard or the chirping of a dying smoke alarm.

Each time I started to relax, the houseguest took in another mouthful of air with a frighteningly loud, snorting snore. 

It equally startled my soul and unborn child; I felt both curl up and hide within me, waiting for a more peaceful time to unfurl.

My nap was over before it began as was the houseguest’s welcome.

 

Baby Love and Rejection

catTime and time again, the cat hurts the only person who really likes her.  Sure, her solo admirer sometimes pets her a little too hard, and one time he fell over on top of her in his effort to show his undying love.  He means well, but she is unforgiving and damaged and persists in hissing and running from him.

Yesterday, the sweet boy was in the living room, behind a baby gate when the cat decided to taunt him from the other side.  I watched from a beanbag chair nearby, feeling a false sense of security, thanks to the gate.  They are safe from each other, I mused, as the cat laid down against the white, metal bars letting her full tail rest on our side of the gate.  Every so often, she flicked her tail as she purred and cleaned her thick fur. 

It was too much to resist, that big, juicy tail moving like a beautiful, wild creature independent from the lazy, mean cat.  The boy toddled over to the gate, grabbed her tail with one hand and then reached through the bars to pet her fat tummy.  In an instant, she was furious at the violation of her space, she hissed and swatted at his hand with all of the evil she could muster.  There was an audible thwap as her furry paw connected with his hand. 

Bad Cat 1: Baby Boy 0  

She definitely set him up for a swat or worse, depending on her foul mood.  Fortunately, the boy was left unharmed but confused and upset that his furry friend didn’t want to play, like ever.  It was his first rejection and it hurt me to watch.  

As I tried to help him understand what happened, he lost interest and turned to knock over a stack of blocks and chase his ball, already over it.  Meanwhile, his poor mama was left to stew on the future when there will be real pain, rejections and undying, unrequited love and just how in the world to make it all ok.