Thursday, February 11, 2010

And how was your day?

"Mom, Mom!" she interjects, as I take a break from telling Pynchon about something I read in the paper earlier to take a bite of my salad.

"Mom! Is it my turn to talk?"

"Sure. What would you like to talk about?"

"Um ... um ... Today-I-went-to-preschool-and-I-played-and-played-and-then-we-had-snack-and-when-we-went-outside-I-fell-down-but-it-was-okay-I-laughed."

She pauses. Takes a bite of cheese. Reflects.

"Tell me about your day, Mom."

We eat supper together almost every night, and we've consciously been working on table manners: asking for more milk by saying "please," using cutlery, waiting until everyone is seated before you start, wiping your fingers on a napkin instead of the table. I'm surprised to discover that at the same time we've been teaching her a more subtle set of skills. Munchkin is learning the give and take of conversation, its rhythms and pauses, the scripts that orchestrate who gets to speak, when, and about what. At dinner, we all take turns speaking. At dinner, the main topic of conversation is "your day" and speech is invited by direct questions to that effect.

So sophisticated is her understanding of the operations of mealtime that she even knows that breakfast is something different: at breakfast, everyone reads the newspaper, including Munchkin. If by 'read', you mean demand the section of the paper that has the most interesting picture on it, and have it propped up nice and high in front of you so you can make up stories about it.

Wow. And that's what family meals are for, I guess. Civilizing our barbarian toddlers while ingesting home cooked meals that feature some kind of green thing along with the cheese, the barbarian toddlers somehow and suddenly learning how to divvy up the morning paper and how to listen to mommy rant about her students.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

When the fever breaks

Munchkin is adjusting to my return to normal daily family life. She is adjusting, as I begin to see is her pattern, by freaking out with abandonment issues after the absent parent is once more firmly embraced into the crush of daily family life.

That is, she misses me with great passion and hurling cries now that I'm home again.

I went to bed so early last night that I wound up sleeping in the guest room by myself. I awoke at 4 to sobbing cries of "Mommmmmm-eeeeeee". She pulled me down close to her, whispered in my ear, brokenly.

"Mommy, I missed you so much when you went to yoga, I was so worried. Mom, I missed you."

I tucked her up tight, covered her gently, shushed softly in her ear. But as soon as I crawled back into bed, I could hear her crying again, like her heart was broken. After a couple of rounds of this, feeling like she really did miss me and that was the problem, I asked, "Do you want to come sleep with Mommy tonight?" Like a shot, she leapt out of bed, grabbing her pillow and heading straight out into the hallway. She wrapped herself tight around me, sobs quieted and breathing getting deeper. I thought she would fall asleep right away.

She didn't. For the next 90 minutes, she lay there, quiet and awake, stroking my face and neck with her palm, with a fingertip, with the back of her hand. With her cheeks, even. She tucked her feet up between my thighs, snuggled her belly up close to mine. Every now and again she'd sit up and exclaim, "Oh Mommy, I love you soooo much," and then lie down again. Every now and again I'd slit one of my eyes open to see if she was asleep, only to find her an inch away from me, with a blissed out smile on her face. She pulled one of my arms up and around her, tucked my fingers under her ear and nuzzled me.

It took me back. The guest bed is where she and I used to sleep right after she was born, breastfeeding through the night and sleeping in spurts. She didn't much like me to hold her then. She was squirmy and angry and this affection now, in the night, on this bed, is all I could have dreamed of then, my barfy colicky squirmy 9 pounder. She feels surprisingly big in bed now, obviously not like sleeping next to Pynchon but not at all like sleeping with that baby three years ago. Except maybe for the smell, and maybe the softness of her hair.

As she patted and rubbed and sniffed and snuggled me, I realized that I needed it as much as she did. We were skin-hungry for each other, I think, that mother-daughter connection of touch that has anchored us. Sometimes the kids know best, know when some limit has been breached, and just what to do to make it right again.