.. and I am kneeling by your bed, rubbing my cheek against your baby soft cheek. Someday it will have stubble and I will still have the urge to put my cheek against it, but it will no longer be my prerogative. You turn in your sleep, open your eyes, smile sleepily, grab my head, twist it under your arm, and cuddle closer. I lie there, half on the floor, head buried at an awkward angle under your arm until you fall asleep.
Then I slowly ease out and sit back in the semi darkness, watching your chest rise and fall. Peace reigns in the nursery. A night light glows in a corner. And I take stock of the last 2 weeks that you’ve lived in this new house and been to the new school. You’ve loved it. Not in a crazy war whooping way, but in a calm, coming home sort of way.
I’m glad you’re here. No judgment, but I’m glad that it is not a classroom full of cartoon-obsessed kids. There’s something to be said about having kids of like minded parents in school with you. I’m glad they’re just regular middle class kids who speak a good amount of Hindi and chatter on about their daily lives instead of what they saw on the idiot box. I’m hoping it will decrease the intensity of your super hero obsession. I can’t believe we succumbed to the school’s pressure of letting you watch more rubbish TV.
A few weeks ago I put on Animal Planet and you weren’t interested but over the last week or so that I’ve been home, you and I have watched whales, giraffes, sharks and baboons on TV and I see your interest coming alive again. What bothered me more, in a bitter sweet way, is how your personality changed the moment I stayed home. You love being welcomed home by me. You curl into me. You stop by to kiss me for no reason. You suddenly hold my face in your stubby little hands with their ugly little fingers and then say earnestly, “I love you, mama.” You sometimes just want to be with me. As though you’re drinking up every minute before I return to work. You’re more agreeable, less stubborn. You’ve been running around the house with a broken antenna muttering things and swooping over and under furniture. You’re happily making plans in your head and writing stories and enacting them. You’re imagination is back, baby, and how!
You’re more confident and I love the way you go down to play football with your sweaty little five year old friends. You want to cycle and you’re learning to swim. Your sweet nature has bought you more than I could and a 12 year old girl has taken you under her wing, saying “Aunty, trust me.” And so I trust her as she takes off your arm bands and chucks them aside, then teaches you to hold your breath and dive under.
And just like that, in less than two weeks the two of you are splashing around like fishies, making friends and growing, growing, growing. I was worried about you making friends. So many people had told me that I’d need to sit with you in the garden and help you along. But I wanted to give you a chance before I did that. And you don’t need me. You with your absolutely disarming smile and willingness to get along. And the Bean with her confidence.
As night falls, you droop with the sheer exertion of a long day, literally falling into your dinner plate. And yet as I take you to bed and tuck you in, you sit up with a book of dinosaurs, begging me for a few more minutes before lights out. I watch you both struggle to squeeze a few more minutes of life out of the day and I smile. You may have your father’s complexion, but under that fair skin, you’re both mine. You have my love for life and 24 hours is just not enough for all that you want for yourself.
I love you, brat. And I might hate my new life here, but for that sparkle that has come back to your eyes, I’d do it again and again and again. And again. And go to hell and back, and smile happily right through it.