seeking: external uterus
If Col is not sick and Rose is not bereft, I have approximately 2 solid days/week to put towards work.
Today, Rose is bereft. Actually, she’s bopping around in purple velvet—scratch that, now she’s in pink shorts and a doll sling turned bikini-top, crayoning smiling horses under blue skies. She speaks softly and continuously to herself. But, suggest that she join her friends at homeschool co-op, and she looks shocked, as if I’ve proposed she’s ready for a solo trip to Russia. An actual flood of tears rush from her eyes, suggesting the cliché originates in a six year old encouraged to separate from her mother.
This is a new development, this bereftness at leaving me. Everything is absolutely fine—giddy fine—until it’s time for Rose to go to the places she goes on the days I work. This morning she almost floated away on the sea of her own tears, until I said, okay, you can stay with me, but I’ll be working. You’ll have to entertain yourself.
And really, I’m flummoxed. This morning Rose watched three friends pile into the car heading to Fawn’s house for homeschool co-op, which is historically where learning dresses up like fun and all your BFFs are there. No dice. Rose waved good-bye to her friends and skipped inside to “entertain herself.” My prediction that she’d regret staying home after an hour of tedious aloneness is proving wrong.
I know that the latin root of “parent” is: More Flexible Than You Ever Thought. How many times have you been gearing up for some cheery social gathering, putting the finishing touches on your potluck dish, when your child turns her lovely moon-face towards you, flashing the grim, red-eyed squint of pink-eye. We get schooled early. I remember feeling all self-congratulatory when I got baby Col and his steamer trunk of supplies packed up for a hike all by myself. Next, he pooped, explosively, needed to nurse and then fell asleep on me. We stayed home and napped on the couch.
While Dan is gone hunting (does it seem like Dan’s always hunting? I overheard Col’s friend Mathew ask him: “What is your dad’s job? Does he work and hunt?”), Rose has been sleeping in a nest on my bedroom floor. But really, I wish I could incubate her in an external uterus at night. I’d tuck her into that dark aquatic cave and hook up the old umbilical cord, shuttling bits of last nights beef stew her way. She could craft her 6-year old nighttime dreams to the thready soundtrack of my heartbeat. And I’d sigh in relief at performing the easiest task of mothering.
Maybe it would be different if I had one of those jobs where I had to show up without a child (who’s now dancing in a smattering of headbands) zippered to my skin, like my friends who work as teachers, massage therapists, accountants. As far as Col and Rose see, I’m just typing away at the computer, the same little box which mysteriously produces videos of Arthur if you press the right buttons. All my deadlines and obligations, writing and editing work—this work I love so dearly—is as intangible to them as the rise and fall of numbers in our checkbook.
“This will pass,” friends have said. Child development is not linear, but more like a series of concentric circles. Kids swing out into their own brave orbits, and then loop back to the home base of their parents. Their evolution is a mysterious, beautiful and confounding process. Someday I’ll watch wistfully as Rose sashays out the door into the bright sun of her own life, but right now I am trying to keep the checkbook numbers up while she orbits precisely around my feet.