It’s all the same in the dark as it is in the light
My baby moves from daycare into full-on Preschool next week.
I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. Every heartbeat. Every bit of my anxiety thuds in my chest. Every stage of his life brings new fears.
Yesterday he came home from school and fell asleep in the car and for a few minutes I got to hold my sleeping baby in my arms. It’s so rare these days. He jolted awake after just a few minutes and hollered with a grouchy tired tone that he needed a drink. Water. NOW. His tone softened, he whispered please. For the first months of his life, he’d only go to sleep while nursing and cradled up against me. So after nearly three years of breastfeeding him to sleep, I don’t really hate that he mostly naps alone these days, and can wake up and screech for exactly what he needs in human words. But still I am so sad that those days are gone. Nothing is more shocking than trying to hold two opposing feelings in my heart at the same time. So tired of being needed; so glad to be the one he reaches for first. It’s exhausting to hold all these feelings in your heart and to be everything for a tiny human and not get much in return. Slowly they get better at naming what they need, asking for help, not requiring so much from you. You just keep hoping they pick up on what you say, that a little bit of what you say ends up sticking, makes them a little more ready for all they’ve got to face in the world.
He always wants to play as if he’s a baby again. “Waah, waah, I’m a baby” he whines at me. It’s annoying. I hold my baby anyway. He just wants reassurance that for all his blustering brash I’M A BIG KID shouting he can come back and be small and vulnerable and tiny with me. I hold out my arms and let him pretend as if he wasn’t an infant just last week.
Sometimes he gets so angry with me. He is fire and fury. Sometimes I’m angry right back at him, short and snappy, rushing to get something done. Impatient. Annoyed. I’m trying harder to stop and hold out my arms. I’m trying to hear through the shouting that he just wants to come back and be small and vulnerable and tiny with me. I hold out my arms. He inches towards me, still full of that fire. He’s consumed with fear and scared of being weak.
I know exactly what he feels. It is hard to let yourself be weak. It is hard to be vulnerable. I hold out my arms and wait quietly, and ever so slowly he allows himself to get closer to my grasp and collapse onto me and sob and sob and sob all of his tiny fears into my chest. How many times a day do my fears of being vulnerable come out of my mouth in frustration and anger? How often do I scream when all I want is to be weak and scared and sob all of my fears out? It is nothing short of a sacred privilege to be those arms for him. We all need someone to help us through our fears.
He is a big kid. He is a baby.
We all are.
He is angry. He is full of fear. He is scared of looking weak.
We all are.
A few weeks ago I was putting him to bed and out came the list of excuses to try and stay up as long as he could. I’m thirsty. It’s not bed time. Let’s sing a song. Read a story. I need to get one more thing. I’m hungry. I need a snack. I was getting impatient. Annoyed. At the end of his persistent list he said: I’m scared.
It’s the one thing I can’t ignore. I’m scared every minute of my life. I’m scared of war, of sending him off to school, of bills, of making a simple phone call. How could I dismiss his fear? How could I tell him to ignore his tiny animal instincts and push away his worries?
I asked what scared him. He was scared of noises he heard from the rest of the house. I told him how right below his room was the kitchen, and remember how when dad is in the kitchen he always makes a bunch of loud noises and drops stuff? That’s what the noises are. He was scared of shadows on the wall. We talked about how they were coming through his window from the moon peeking in to say goodnight. He was scared of his closet doors, partly open, full of the unknown. I opened the doors and we looked at every single thing. We named them: clothes, toys, pillows, extra sheets. It’s all the same in the dark as it is in the light. We all need someone to help us through our fears.
I tried very hard not to tell him his fears were nothing, pointless. Goodness knows that’s never made anything less scary. We are poisoned by a world full of scared boys trying to forget what they’re afraid of and turning those fears into anger, impatience, annoyance. Instead I told him all the ways I was here to make sure he was safe, and how even if he was in bed alone we were just out in the rest of the house cleaning up and doing boring grown up stuff. Eventually he seemed satisfied with my answers and fell asleep in my arms. I stayed longer than I had to and held my big kid. Baby.
This morning over breakfast we talked about his upcoming preschool class. We named all the new things he would do. New friends, new places, new toys. A little excited and a little scared. I wandered away to use the bathroom.
I sat down.
I turned on my phone.
And I screamed.
It’s so hard not to scream when the disease that you and all your friends share seems to keep sneaking up to take lives in the night. We wake up each day knowing we’ll face a new tragedy. The heroes we looked to to bring light into our world keep disappearing. Robin. Carrie. Kate. Tony. There are so many shadows. So many loud noises. So many unknown doors. It’s all the same in the dark as it is in the light.
I screamed and Sean came to see what was wrong. Luca was close behind him. I shoved my phone into Sean’s hands to read the details that I couldn’t bear to absorb yet. Luca asked me what was wrong. He asked if I was alright, if I was scared. How do you explain death to someone who was just born? I tried to sputter out an explanation that he’d maybe comprehend. My friend……well, someone I love. Someone I care about. He’s far away. He’s feeling very yucky and sick and not so good, and it makes Mommy feel sad because I can’t help him feel better. I tried hard to keep myself together. He was already ignoring me and prying open the door of the hallway closet next to us. I was certain he wasn’t listening any more. The death of some stranger didn’t matter. It was time to find shoes and socks and get going, out the door, off to school. My sadness and fear had switched to impatience. Annoyance. What are you looking for in there? Your shoes are downstairs. You guys are late. It’s time to get going.
He shut the door. He turned to me. He said: There’s just games in that closet, mommy. Just some of my toys, and some bags. There’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s okay! You can feel better now.
We all need someone to help us through our fears.