Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The More the Merrier

You wouldn't think the antidote to feeling exhausted by parenting two kids would be to invite two more kids into the mix. But today's our first day having the boys I babysit here after a 10 day break, and it's so nice to have them back.

Between caring for the kids all day and then sleeping in my daughter's room at night while she wakes repeatedly, nursing, climbing, and rolling on me, I feel less like a person and more like a creature with child-sized appendages. There has been no space between my body and the bodies of my children, and at times it's all I can do not to hiss: don't touch me.

But then the boys come, and because I'm not their mothers, they don't treat my body with the same sense of cavalier ownership. I hold them, sure, and ruffle their hair and give them hugs, but all of a sudden I'm something more than just a mother, and a sense of self emerges from the primordial ooze of constant neediness I've been navigating with my children.

They play together on the floor and I compose questions to facilitate language development. They bicker and I intervene to model age appropriate social skills. They begin to bounce off the walls, trapped indoors by the whims of winter, and I introduce a new gross motor activity.

It's the same things I might do with my own children -and do- but the distance I gain in the subtle shift of roles: mother to teacher, is just enough room to take a deep breath and by redefining my role, find and tap into some source of energy I've been lacking.

The kids, too, come alive in the presence of their peers. My boy is showing off his new train table and sharing in ways that eluded him when it was only his sister dismantling the tracks. My daughter deigns to remove herself from my lap and squeals with joy passing plastic food back and forth with her friends.

It's funny to find it here, but I think this is why some women value their work so much: it offers a chance to define the self in a new set of parameters, to discover and prove a different set of competencies. It's amusing that I can see it so much more clearly all of a sudden when I'm working from home, caring for other children in addition to my own. Because my professional work has always included a healthy dose of care-taking, it was difficult to discern the difference between what I did for a living, and what I did at home. Now the two spheres overlap more than ever, and yet the differences stand out more starkly.

Welcome back boys! We missed you.

1 comment:

  1. boys are always fun. what's not fun are gaggles of girls. they fight and get all take-sidey and all that. boys are always much better