Sunday, February 18, 2007

Resistance

I've been thinking today that not all of parenting is active, and that not all passivity is inert. I've been thinking about the idea of resistance, and its part in my role as The Mama.

Miss Baby has long had a somewhat annoying habit, of pushing her legs very hard against my upper arm while she is breastfeeding. Her reach, push-wise, exceeds my capacity to move my arm out of the way, so I usually just try to find a way to pin her leg in my armpit in order breastfeed in peace. She started this so young I used to tell myself that she didn't know what she was doing. But it is clear that now, at least, she does. She is pushing deliberately. She has recently taken this habit and extended it throughout her day: she pushes herself standing off my legs, she pushes hard with her arms against my chest when I carry her. The corollary to this habit is the pulling: my glasses off my face, my arm while she feeds, my ear while we snuggle, my nose when she is examining my face, my hair whenever she is able. Do not discount, either, the flailing, the lunging, and the bucking: with her arms, legs, and torso so unpredictably thrown around, there are headbutts and face-smacks and near-drops aplenty.

Her strength and speed and will astonish me. Slamming her heels hard into the change table, lunging head first from my arms into a wall, flapping her arms onto the breakfast bar, and bucking her head onto the floor while playing, she is delighting in her own physicality, but at the cost of some painful bumps. And so I hold her, let her push against me so that I can catch her if she flails too far. Let her bang her head into my nose, because I'm a more forgiving surface than the bedroom carpet. The resistance my body offers her helps her learn the limits of her own strength: it helps her know where she ends and the world begins, from the safety of a mother's embrace.

Of course, the resistance I offer to her is not all absorption of blows. No. I find delights of my own in the meetings of her body and mine. She's becoming something of a snuggler, and it's a different sense of mass and form I share with her when she melts into my shoulder, absentmindedly picking at a mole on my neck. It's another kind of resistance entirely when she sinks into me when she nurses, a different sense of the relation of her body to mine, of what it means to be distinct but enveloped. Safe.

We have begun the dance that will surely define our relationship for as long as it endures: a pushing away and a pulling closer, a friction and a joy at the boundary between me and she. And so I add 'resistance' to my The Mama toolkit. I learn something new every day.

11 comments:

NotSoSage said...

Beautiful. And so reminiscent of that stage with Mme L.

Thank you.

Mad Hatter said...

Miss M has a new resistance tactic. Whenever I stand in the kitchen trying to make dinner, she forces her body between me and the counter, tripping me up and pushing me back. It is a very persistant strategy on her part and while it might not achieve its desired end of preventing me from making dinner, it does piss me off to no end.

Beck said...

The ol' head to the face! Ouch. After a while, I grew very weary of my kids deliberately smashing my face with their giant baby heads. My baby still stretches her legs against me when she's in bed with me at night, pulling me to her and pushing away at the same time.
Lovely post.

Bloor West Mama said...

Mad Hatter, my daughter does the exact same thing...I hate it so much.

Isa used to do the same things that Miss Baby does...though she never did anything while she was feeding(that was too important for her).

Now at 18 months she is much better...exept for the mentioned annoying new moves mentioned above by mad hatter.

Mimi said...

Mad -- God, what a pain! My sister's youngest (and BWM's) kid used to do that. Not calculated to warm the heart, for sure. I'll bet you want to throw her out the window, huh?

Beck -- why DO baby's have such giant heads? And fling them about with such abandon? Sigh. I'm trying to rationalise all the pain into something useful ...

NotSoSage said...

Hey, just chiming in to say that Mme L does what Mad described, too. Recently, she's acquired the habit of saying, "Excuse me," while she does it, which makes only slightly more acceptable...and equally as frustrating.

Mad Hatter said...

Dear Lord!!! Thank you all for letting me know that I am not the only one. It is a most annoying tactic, isn't it? Sometimes she faces my thighs while she does it, plaintively whimpering "pick up, pick up, pick up"; sometimes she faces the butcher knife or boiling pot while she does it thus ensuring that I pick up; and sometimes she shoves her way into position only to force my legs apart so that she can crawl through them.

Mind games, I tell ya. It's all mind games.

gingajoy said...

By the time I weaned son #1 it was liek wrestling a small lion. The whole b.f. experience was so physical, and squirmy. He was pretty much like that from the beginning. This one is so calm in comparison. I wonder what I'm in for...

ewe are here said...

Ditto for MF, Mad Hatter. And it is so incredibly annoying!

And there's nothing like an accidental MF headbutt to the nose. Ouch!

Melanie said...

Brenna begs me to snuggle with her at night and then is constantly kicking and pushing at me with her legs. It usually leads to me leaving her to fall asleep by herself because I cannot stand the constant movement of it all. Sounds relaxing, doesn't it! It's amazing what we put up with, without a thought. And then we you did give it a thought - you spoke of it wondefully. Resistance.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Mad Hatter and the others -- my daughter tries to shove her stepstool between me and the stove/chopping block/sink to be close & involved... It's cute and maddening at the same time.

Mimi: I was thinking of the word "resilience" as a useful one for mamas as well.