My mother has a photograph of me as an infant from the first time I was sick. I am lying on the carpeted floor, a blanket up to my chest, my head on a miniature pillow. I have a doll posed next to me and am looking right at the camera with my deep, dark brown eyes. I am silent, unmoving except for my eyes staring right into you. It may be the only photo from my first two years where I am not a blur of movement. My mother explained that in those days you valued your film, every shot mattered and was important. This was meaningful, my mother noted, because it was the first time I was truly still. Charley has been sick the past few days, and I am reminded of that photograph. It is not that I delight in his discomfort, far from it; it hurts in a different way to see your child in pain. It is just a fever, the onset of teeth or the sign of an upcoming cold. The house has a different energy. We let him watch Curious George quietly in the dark, cool living room. It feels like so long since we have snuggled. Despite looking very much like my husband, he has much of my personality. He has my ability to go all day long, from activity to activity, without napping, too interested in the world around him. Generally our house has the frenzied chaotic energy of a small zoo or college dorm. There is yelling, barking, drinks spilled on the couch, and rallying long past bedtime. It’s not that he is a hyper child; he will find a calm moment to do a puzzle, or build with his Legos. Instead, it’s just that he needs to be constantly entertained, his brain jumps around so much, he’s asking about the dog, he wants to know about the fireplace, he needs to build this boat RIGHT NOW.
I am the same way really, even now. I flutter from hobby to hobby, unsure of how to find that stillness, that quiet satisfaction. The only times calm has visited me was when I had morning sickness. Calm had the ability to make me rethink everything, become introspective.
So, perhaps, a little bit, I relish the times he is sick, and allows me to baby him. I snuggle next to his soft, blonde head, smelling the last of the baby hairs. These days when I pick him up from preschool, his curls are matted to his forehead and he smells vaguely of sweat, sand and whatever they had for lunch (it always smells like meatballs). Gone are the days of carrying him against my chest in the sling, tucked in tightly, fingers clasped around the straps. Instead he refuses to hold my hand in the parking lot and wants to run, RUN MAMA, to see the shopping carts that look like race cars. This weekend though, we spent a quiet few hours, just snuggling on the couch, and we discovered the stillness once more together.