I was counting my blessings today and I realised that I feel sorry for myself too often. What with being far away from home and bringing up the kids in a nuclear family. A month or two ago I called up my brother in the US and heard baby squeals and much fun. What was this? A baby? There was a baby in their house?!
It turned out that they were babysitting for some friends. A couple who were working parents and who had sadly ended up with travel plans that intersected so that they were both away for one night. As a result their year old son was going to be alone and had to be picked up from daycare after his mother left and kept for the night until his father got back. And there they were, bathtub full, screaming and laughing having a blast. I hung up feeling a little blue.
My brother and his wife are fantastic with babies (probably because they’re not stuck with them permanently ) and when they’re in town my kids worship them. And yet, here they were, giving their love to other babies while my kids will grow up thinking of them as someone who visits once a year and brings lots of gifts like Santa Claus. I hate that waste of a full day as they slowly warm up to their maama. I hate that each time he visits they’ve grown so much that he needs to be reacquainted with them. I hate that they need to recite nursery rhymes over the phone to a disembodied voice, that the Bean puts a finger in her mouth and pretends to whistle at the phone rather vaguely because she can’t figure out who is at the other end. I badly want them to have their family in their lives… not just connected by the phone and email. Yes, I am greedy like that. I never get enough of the people I love.
But the truth is that our guest room is never empty and we always have guests in the nursery and even on the living room floor. And in the last couple of years my kids have had maamas and maashis visiting them, wrestling with them, watching The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins and roaring with laughter, reading them bed time stories and curling up with them for afternoon naps, babysitting so that the OA and I can go get a late night movie, sitting on the cool floor through hot summer afternoons and teaching them to paint, giving me an extra half hour of shut eye by getting up early and taking them out on the balcony to feed the birds, then later patiently following them around the house with half eaten jam sandwiches instead of locking them into the highchair, drawing endless cows and elephants, building elaborate structures for Hot Wheels cars to race through, replacing dozens of batteries and tolerating the noisy toys, feeding them sneaky bars of chocolate and washing sticky fingers before mamma spies them … I could go on.
What made me really happy? The warm fuzzy feeling of physical space being invaded. Yes, you read that right. We grew up sharing rooms with siblings. Visiting family was welcomed no matter how small the house and kids all slept on mattresses on the floor, packed like sardines in a can and nobody whined about wanting their own room or personal space and privacy. One of the joys of growing up in this crazy, warm, chaotic country of ours.
The kids are learning to lie down just about anywhere without a word and falling asleep, exhausted after a day of something new and fun. They manage fine without a schedule and I shudder to imagine how disappointed they will be school reopens! They’re learning that family is not a rigid structure of just those who share your blood. They’re learning that mamma and dada are the core, but there are many more fun people filling up their lives and making up for any lack on mamma and dada’s part. They are learning how to deal with different people and what is okay to do or not around other adults. They’re learning that mamma won’t always be around to be the buffer between them and strangers. They are learning to welcome as well as bid farewell without having a meltdown. They’re learning that goodbye is not forever.
Here’s a picture of the babies piled on to the bed with Cousin K. Head to toe to head to toe to head to toe. All fast asleep in my cool, dark bedroom while I work.