My motherhood is a physical one. That physicality is how I get Soren to school –stuffing limbs in clothes, forced tooth- and hair-brushing, holding hands as we walk to the school bus. It’s about a lot of pushing and pulling and scrubbing while we do showers and toileting. It’s how he has fun (twirling, jumping, swinging, flapping). He prefers that I lie down right next to him as he tries to go to sleep. And above all, it’s how he experiences love and attachment to others. Being held upside by his dad is his idea of bliss. Physicality is how he experiences his world, and how I enter into it.
Unlike other moms who mourn what will eventually come as their children mature, my expectation is that I will have this physicality for a long time—maybe always--as I parent Soren. Simple requests like “get your socks on” or “put your dish in the sink” don’t happen without my modeling and following through, which means starting the sock-putting-on routine with my hands, and walking him to the kitchen and putting that dish in the sink, hand over hand, so that we have follow-through and consistency in his chores.
And I don’t see this changing much as Soren develops.
My body is telling me that this is a lot of work. I had to explain this situation to a physical therapist this week when he asked how my TFL/hip pain is impacting my daily life. How does it NOT impact my daily life? Right now, my body is essential to Soren’s functioning and happiness.
You know what’s great about physicality with your child, though? It’s a tool that always available. Roughhousing with Soren, swimming with him, and tickling him are ways that are quick and easy to make him feel loved and important. I can help others relate to him by sharing these connection secrets, too.
I don’t have to mourn losing this physicality, which isn't going away. And I do mourn the fact that it may never go away, even as we both age.
I remember my mom telling me when Soren was an infant that it was a gift to have such a close relationship to a baby because of the new, or re-introduced, world of physical connection. You are constantly touching and handling that baby, and that changes you. You learn how much your touch is a comfort, a constant, a way to keep that kiddo alive.
So as I chase my 8-year-old around the kitchen or give him even more foot squeezes, I’m in this gray space. Of being concerned, and of being thankful. I have a gift that most parents of 8-year-old boys don’t: of being connected, daily, to this being in a most intimate way. It's true that I don’t know how I’m going to do this when Soren is 12, or 16, or 30. But for today, he is the boy that I tickle. A lot.