By Melissa Ford
My four-year-old sits on my lap. It’s morning time, the perfect time to cuddle. Still sporting his pajamas, he leans in closer to me feeling snuggly and warm. I fold him in my arms loving everything about him: the fresh scent of his hair, the softness of his cheek on mine, the way he clutches his blanket rubbing it under his nose to comfort himself. Ah, nirvana! The potency of such a profound love, even the ammonia smell wafting from his wet diaper adds to his cuteness, his vulnerability. For this brief period in time, life is beautiful and perfect.
Getting on with the day will break this moment: changing diapers, cooking breakfast, doing laundry, grocery shopping, feeding, keeping children safe. Always doing. No matter how hard I try to hang onto these moments, they slip away. Time moves on, my child grows restless, chores have to get done, the day needs to be lived.
My mood shifts gears as I lift my son off my lap and set him down on the floor. Musing, I turn my mind to his wet diaper. Has he been wearing his underwear to preschool? For some reason, I’m not certain. Transitioning from diaper to underwear has become such a power struggle between us. I make a mental note to remind him about the new rule - No diapers in preschool!
Absorbed in thought, I move toward the kitchen not quite able to shake this vague unease. It’s quite possible he doesn’t even own underwear! Did I forget to buy him some? Digging down deep for an answer to this burning question, I come up empty-handed.
Drifting in and out of thoughts about undergarments, as only a mother would do, I start to come to… emerging from the ether, realizing… I’ve been dreaming. Night has transformed into day, yet I remain floating, suspended between two worlds. For one precious moment, my mind has made real an experience, long ago, when I loved a child with such depth and emotion, that very same child who is a young man today.
Fully awake to my life without children, that old empty-nest, I relax in bed with a slight smile on my face, relishing the intensity of my love and the humor in creating such a strange dream. Alone in the quiet of this morning, without the need to care for anyone, sadness creeps in. I’m sad for the loss of a love that cannot be expressed the way it used to — through always doing. This old “caring for” love seems stale, ineffectual, empty.
I breathe deeply, clearing my mind. Time to let go of an old love so I can embrace a new one — a love that comes from "caring about" my son; a kind, loving, intelligent man who let go of his need to be diapered, cuddled and cared for a long time ago.
Answer Book 2019
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