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13 weeks | The secrets we keep | no. 0006
I have no idea what’s going on inside that growing brain of his. He is propped up by my thighs, sitting pleasantly in the L-shaped chair my reclining body has made for him. He lathers his fists in saliva, soothing the itch of gums. More evidence that the two imprints Mommy pretends aren’t there are steadily making way for teeth. Wide, slippery smiles move on and off of his face. His whole self is both so big and so small. There is a thick, warm silence between us that is suddenly a fragile thing I want to protect. This type of quiet in his wakeful body is so rare. The dryer has also completed its cycle and the neighbor above us with the elephant feet is not stomping around. The loudest thing is maybe a yawn. First him. Then me.
He holds the stillness in his hands, but doesn’t know how delicate it is to me. He decides not to break it yet. Instead, he looks at me and I see my green shirt as clear as ever reflecting back in his dark brown pupils. It’s always so much more intense when we make eye contact. I really want to see how long there can be this untalking going on. Even though it’s moments like these when I am most overthinking whether or not I should be making some positive and profound statement. You know, to stimulate cognitive development. I briefly sift through possible somethings to say, but abandon the strain it puts on my tired mind. It can’t be that every moment must be filled. It can’t be that any moment is ever empty.
He stares. Piercingly so. His eyes see through everything I am. Expose everything I am not. It’s nothing, then, to tell him my secrets. The weight of some burden shifts within. If I could just confess one of my imperfect thoughts to this one who thinks I am perfect. Maybe it could lessen the load I carry in expectations. Relief in droplets, clusters of seconds scavenged from this day for an opportunity to tell the truth to myself. It sits there, an almost, waiting to be extracted by an opening just like this one. He drools a fountain into his bib while his gaze stays on me. I have his listening, I know. I wonder, if when he is old enough to talk back, if I will still wish to pour so honestly into his ear.
I consider what to tell him. He falls over to his left side, a slow motion descent launched by his head. There is no fuss because he knows Mommy will pull him upright. He tips over again, the drool spilling with him. Each time he finds my eyes, a bigger smile. This simple sequence we repeat, a kinetic call and response where he practices gaining and losing control in his body, seems to satiate him right now. Part of me feels any admission from the depths of my soul will ruin the moment. There it is again, that propensity toward guilt, toward worry, toward not being enough. This is the thing that makes me weary. The constant fretting that some aspect of my authenticity could somehow be damaging to my child’s happiness. I don’t know what to tell you about that. I wipe drool from his face. He makes the first sound, a gurgling of vowels without space for consonants. The silence has returned to its hiding place.
Perhaps, there can be such a thing as implicit truth between mother and munchkin. He did, after all, live inside the ocean of my unfiltered conscious for nine months. Lurching forward, the wetness smeared on his cheek becomes a part of me. I hold him close and feel the tug of him wanting more movement. It’s as if he already knows much of whatever I am afraid to say out loud anyway. I have stood naked before many audiences as an artist, experiments in the performance of self that I loved to do. But to be naked for my son, in this way, a spiritual exercise clearly unadorned but for the breath that keeps us alive, is the hardest thing I do everyday.
Now he attempts what looks like a climb, hooking his claws into my arm and pulling up. The drool coats us both in his determination. He is delighted to have managed this slight distance on his own. He looks to me when he’s gotten as far as he can go. He gets excited when I bear witness to the effort it takes for him to exist in this world. I see you. My heart feels a little lighter as I join him in the babbling. At least for now, there is nothing untold to tell him.
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.