Thursday, June 17, 2010

Who's Training Who?

After 4 months of being his mother, I already know some things about my son that both thrill and terrify me.  I know he is an attention hog.  He doesn't like it when people aren't watching him and hanging on his every (though somewhat limited) antic.   I know that he is a sucker for praise and will do many cute baby "tricks" if he knows he'll be rewarded with by the awe and amazement of his audience. I know that he loves to smile and will do so at the slightest stimulus.  When I speak to him in sweet and gentle tones, I know he will respond with his own special brand of gurgling, cooing baby talk.  I also know he is my most ardent admirer.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I am flattered beyond belief several times a day.

Because I know these things, I find myself going down a self-perpetuating path of what some may consider parental narcissism.  My days are spent wanting to see my son smile at me--at me his mother who loves him and has devoted a large portion of her every day life to his health and happiness!  My heart skips a beat when he mimics a sound or gesture from me, and I spend much time attempting to illicit the imitation of speech from him.  He has been known to repeat "I love you" and "Aaaaooooogah!" back to me.  I am pleased when he learns to take "performance" cues to sit or stand or blow bubbles on command.  When he does the expected and hoped for action, I am lavish in my approbation and a feeling of warm, fuzzy, motherly pride wells up in my heart over how smart and strong my son is.  He is being trained to associate obedience and excellence with motherly praise and happiness.

My son is only four and half months old, but he is learning fast.  He knows things about his mother too.  He knows that I will spend all day holding him if he cries pitifully enough even when I'm so tired my eyes won't stay open, even when I don't know if my back can't take it anymore.  He knows that he's sad or not feeling well, I'll cradle him until he falls asleep no matter how lengthy or piercing his screams of discomfort.  He knows that when he smiles, I am captive to his whims and will dedicate myself to his jollity and entertainment for as long as he continues to express his delight.  He is training me to be a slave to his childish fancy.

A day is coming, however, when just knowing that he pleases me won't be enough.  He'll seek his independence and forge his own way with little to no thought for my desires and my happiness.  Just as I realized soon after bring him home that my kisses did more to make me feel better then him when he was fussy, I will one day make the bitter discovery that my attempts to connect and amuse him will be inadequate.  And he will learn in time that no amount of smiling or appealing to my sympathies will move me when I decide to put down the proverbial foot.

But that day is not now.  He is a curious infant, exploring his world and learning his place in it.  I, his mother, drunk with the wonder and awe of it all, am overwhelmed by a kind of love I never understood before.  We will both grow in the days, months, and years to come.  Constantly redefining our relationship and the boundaries between mother and child, our roles, motivations, and intentions will forever be in flux.  

We are both training each other speak the love language we understand best.  May we always do it with grace.

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