Some nights ago, we drove to New York. That night, fog blanketed much of Connecticut, then poured on NY/CT. Drving that night was faintly unrealistic, somewhat like a Harry Potter movie. I almost expected to see a glowing stag step out of the trees.
As he drives, my partner has a series of semi-ritualistic behaviors: he touches the back of his hand to his mouth, then his forehead, finally scratching at his scalp. Mouth, forehead, scalp, repeat. When he tires, he cycles faster through his ritual, a good cue to me to develop an urgent need for a rest stop.
So there we were: fog, rain, mouth-forehead-scalp. We came suddenly to a turn, and I felt my pulse quicken: were we prepared? Does he see it? Or is he too busy scratching the scar hidden in his hair? While I briefly and silently panicked, my partner casually turned the wheel, guiding us through. Um, right.
It made me think, as I so rarely do, about parenting. This past week, my boys achieved a cerain symmetry: the older is four years and the baby is four months. Parenting my older son was a shattering exerience - upon his arrival, he shattered any preconceived notions we had of parenting. His first and second diagnoses, along with the complications for each one, thoroughly smashed any ideas we had of what kind of childhood he'd have, or what his needs would be. for the first couple of years of his life, we repeatedly scraped ourselves off the floor and rebuilt our relationship with each other, with him, and learned to live the new life we'd been given. When he turned out to be a passionate little kid, well, it just felt appropriate.
Our baby, however, entered this world joyously, organically, after the most brutally empowering experience I've had as a mother. His presence in our lives has been affirmative, calm and unfolding. As he grows into his body, he reveals the personality that hides behind the little face and marvellous hair: interested, thoughtful, not shy about expressing his needs, but trusting us to fulfill them.
To abuse the metaphor, my older son was the sharp bend in the road on the foggy night. He came up fast, with little warning or awareness of what was to follow. His little brother, however, is my partner's hands on the wheel, calm, assured and taking us through the curve with faith in our abilities to manage whatever lies ahead. I'm holding to this image tonight, to my faith in my partner and in myself, as we manage the newest bend in the road:
the baby had an allergic reaction to the milk in my breakfast cereal.
Please note: the drive back from NY, 16 hours later, was under fine conditions and did not inspire pseudo-philosophy. The baby is fine, if a bit itchy today.