Yesterday I noticed B and her Dad lying on the floor, face to face.
She had been laughing at her own jokes for a few minutes, so Dad tried to capture it on his phone.
I tried to capture the scene on my camera.
It made me think about how far fathering has evolved since I was a baby. I wonder, did my dad every get down on the floor with me, or change my diapers? I'm sure my mom never left any of us in his care without a note from the Doctor. No away time for mothers of her generation.
Dad did take a lot of pictures of me because he was in his photography phase when I was about 3. There's a picture of me up to my cheeks in a bubbles. I think the story is I had the mumps. Isn't that a father for you? His sick daughter relaxing in a tub and he thinks it's the perfect photo op. Come to think of it, I was pretty cute. Maybe I didn't have the mumps, just chubby cheeks.
I noticed when B's mom came home yesterday how much she needed B to be as excited as she was. Now I'm not saying B wasn't pleased to know things were finally going to get back to normal. But I'm not sure she was ready for the slow-motion-run-down-the-beach-(or hallway in this case)-into-each-others-arms reunion. All her needs had been met. She was clean. I'm sure it didn't take long for her to realize mom was back in charge.
We give our children mixed messages, don't we? We want them to miss us as much as we miss them. But we don't want them to have separation anxiety. I saw a picture somewhere, FB maybe, of a mom gorilla with her baby on her back. Do animal babies get separation anxiety? Do moms that have to leave them to find food, or take a 10 minute rest without someone hanging on them, miss them in the way human moms miss their babies? How do momma birds know when it's time to push their fledglings out of the nest? Do they worry? Do they cry? Do they beg papa bird to let them stay one more day? Or do they just give them a push and lay back in the empty nest that suddenly doesn't feel as cramped. Does she wait for the kids to come home for a juicy worm dinner?
I thought about all the times in the coming years B's mom is going to have to "let go." Preschool. Kindergarten. First grade. Middle school. College. Ballet lessons. Girl Scout Camp. Spelling Bees. Soccer games. Sleep overs. Prom. Each release is difficult. Tears fall down a mom's cheeks, as the child runs happily to the bus without looking back.
I remember as if it were yesterday, the day Weneki dropped me at the airport after her husband had died. We'd spent two weeks together, both of us still kind of shell-shocked. That beginning grief time when nature takes over and fills your with mind/body numbing agents so you can at least function at
I seriously did not want to go. How could I go and leave her behind? Even leaving her in LA where an Islamic march celebrating the Ayatollah Khomeini was taking place just a couple blocks from her college apartment hadn't prepared me for letting her go and giving her the space to face what would come next. No crying, mom, she told me. How could I not cry? I cry thinking about it now.
But I look back and see how important it was for both of us for me to let her go. To face her fears, her grief, her loneliness on her own. Only she wasn't alone. She was surrounded by people who loved her almost as much as I did. And that's what I said in a note to K last night. God made moms' heartstrings out of elastic. They stretch as far as they have to so that even when mom can't be there in person, the child (even if she's an adult) is never without the love that flows between them.
It's a hard truth. Our children survive without us. Better, probably, that we do without them. And they do that, I believe, because of love. Love that knows no bounds.