My son has never needed his bottles warmed or his dinners microwaved to the perfect temperature; he hates to be rocked and prefers the quiet solitude of his own crib to fall asleep. He wolfs down lemons and spicy jalapeno cheese without blinking an eye; when he falls on the hardwood floor, he rolls into it and comes up baring a gummy smile.
My son loves to play by himself, happily babbling and enjoying his own company. He doesn’t care if the bathwater is too cold and he was the only kid at our mommy and me swim class that loved to be dunked underwater. He has a ready and willing smile for anyone in his line of sight and absolutely zero stranger anxiety (except for Santa Claus, apparently); I often tell people that he probably doesn’t prefer us to strangers on the street. I’m only half kidding.
I hear other moms complain about the exact opposite situation: how their children hang on their jeans so they can’t complete a phone call, the fact that they can’t go to the gym or out to a movie with their husbands because the baby cries the minute they are out of sight.
I’ve never known what that’s like and, most of the time, I’m more than grateful for my son’s fierce independence because it allows me to have a life that doesn’t revolve solely around him. During the day, I’m able to get work done while he plays independently; when my husband and I want to go on a date night, we can leave him with my in-laws, at ease in the certainty that he’ll barely register our absence. We’re lucky and we both know it.
But, sometimes, when he shrugs off my comfort after he gets hurt or turns his head at my kisses, I feel a pang of longing, not for his fierce independence, but for his fierce need of me. Just once, I want him to cry for his mama because I have something only I can give him.
Sure, he needs me to provide his basic necessities: clothing, sustenance, warmth. He needs me to change his diapers and make sure he’s not covered in a layer of filth, though he’d happily do without either of those services. But will he ever need me, like truly need me, or will I always be sort of extraneous to the equation?
Every day, people tell me to cherish these moments because, before long, he’ll be grown up, no longer interested in snuggling, embarrassed by my affection. If he’s already like that now, am I missing some critical stage that I’ll never get back? If my next child (due in August) is the exact opposite, will I kick myself for not relishing my son’s independence while I still could?
I already know I will not be the kisser of his boo-boos nor the drier of his (infrequent) tears. He will solve his problems himself without seeking my counsel, puzzling his way through them until he finds the answer. In so many ways he’s just like my husband; my mother in law tells me their similarities as children is remarkable: both fiercely independent, endlessly curious, completely unruffled by anything. When I look at the intelligent, self-assured man my husband has become, I’m glad our son will be so much like him. I will never have to worry that he’ll be a crybaby or a pushover or a quitter.
But sometimes I wonder: would it be so bad for him to be a mama’s boy? Maybe just for a little while, before he’s no longer my little boy at all.