PARENTING: On Raising a Young Child, take 1

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I have babied my boy for the past six years. It’s true.

When he doesn’t want to walk anymore, I will put him on my shoulders. I will carry his bikes or other things that he no longer wants to deal with. I will brush his teeth, and wipe his butt. We still sleep together, and we often bathe together too. He has learned the art of how to care for a woman’s naked body in a bathtub. He will soap up my body and rub me down. He has learned how to place each of his fingers between each of my toes. He has also learned to gently lift my breasts in order to clean underneath them. I like to think that I am providing his future partners with a solid. I imagine them, in the future, high-fiving the Me in this now and mouthing the words, “You rock! Thank you.” ;)

Unfortunately, my late partner and I were fighting a lot about this in the last months leading up to his death. Our son was four years old when we escaped the anxiety-producing lifestyle of southern California as well as from our family’s first cancer journey. We ran south of the border so we could breathe deeper, spend less money and apply the money we didn’t use to our college loan debt. (Which didn’t really happen.) During our first month abroad, we lived in a worldschool village in Mexico. We were a group of primarily western families staying in an old, small hotel in a Mayan village located on the northern Yucatan peninsula. A Mexican American family was renting the space and producing “worldschool” programming out of it.

We spent our time together sightseeing the region, like the crystalline, ocean waters between Cancun and Merida as well as visiting the local ruins, called Ek Balam, along with taking in a sound and laser show produced on the walls of the world famous Chichen Itza. We also enjoyed various class programs, like weaving, and dreamcatcher, tortilla and hot cacao making, as presented to us in the round, hut homes of our Mayan neighbors. When we left this idyllic spot, however, Burt became quite tough on our son. He started demanding that Cee brush his own teeth and wipe his own butt. He would even chastise me for my willingness to carry our boy. “He’s only four,” I would respond. “I get to do this now, but not forever.”

I couldn’t understand Burt’s behaviors, especially since he had asked for such little responsibility from his daughter who he had raised part-time, on his own. When she was fourteen, she would fly out of bed at the last minute and run to school, sometimes without brushing her teeth or feeding herself. Shuffled between her two parent’s homes her entire life, she didn’t know how to manage and organize herself or her stuff. She was always forgetting things, like her homework, a book, or her soccer clothes, and her Dad was quick to run to bring them to her. He never inquired about her school work and, each semester, she seemed to begin brightly only to fade into a depressed state as the school year advanced. Still, when she would say “Play with your child, Dad,” he was quick to comply. In the early afternoon, he would set aside his work to hop on video games or other media devices with her. I demanded change, to all of this. I wanted them to spend quality time together, yes – after chores and work and dinner had been tended to. As a night owl, though, he had spent his adult years losing his Circadian rhythm to programming 0’s and 1’s into a screen and, at 47 years of age, patterns and habits are really hard to change.

It was challenging, to say the least. Then, at 53 years of age and when our son was just 5 years and 3 months old, my partner died. The cancer had shown back up in his liver, with a vengeance.

So, here I am: a lone Mother to a boy child. It has been a full year since the death of his Dad, whom we speak of everyday. The other day, I was admiring my son’s feet and talking about how they are just like his Dad’s and how I loved his Dad’s strong, beautiful legs. We also have a yellow and black Grosbeak bird that continually shows up at our casita window, pecking it with its beak as it flutters to and from a branch in an avocado tree just a few feet away. “Say “Hi!” to your Dad,” I say to Cee, whenever the bird appears.

This weekend, I found myself exhausted by my menstrual cycle and just the fact that it is me, alone, doing it all. 24/7. I no longer have the partner who balanced me out. Who tended to the financial part of life as I tended to the domestic duties. Who was the best playmate to our son while I made food in the kitchen, did all of our laundry and cleaned the house. And whose deep patience and gentle ways complemented my quick to frustration and sometimes harsh temperament. :( And I began to wonder if Burt’s demands on Cee’s behavior were his subconscious minds attempt to prepare us us for this future that was to come.

Part of me wishes now that I would have just let Burt demand these things. Instead though, I talk to Cee and I tell him how tired I am and how I need his help by him taking care of these self-care chores for himself so that I don’t have to do these things as well as everything else. (Burt was the one who had modeled talking to our children and then, after, asking them if they have heard what was being said by asking them to repeat what they heard. Burt was amazing like this.) Cee likes being babied though. Imagine that? However, at six years old, I am preparing him for his up and coming 7th birthday. “At seven, everything changes,” I tell him. “You will no longer be a baby.” There are already spoken expectations for him in which he make our bed in the morning, or everyday, and that he help with other age-appropriate chores, like sweeping and helping to keep our life organized. All of which he still needs my help with though. But, soon enough, we will no longer fit in the bathtub together. And, someday, I would like to sleep next to someone else. ;) For now, however, we soak up the sweetness of his bee~ing my numero uno person. It goes too fast, and I don’t want to look back in regret feeling like I missed this time to just bee my baby’s Mama.