Mom + baby–when do they separate?
As my son turns two years old this week, I’m pondering this question–when does an attached mom and baby pair start to separate? I mean, in some sense it starts at birth, obviously, and the cutting of the cord is a great symbol of the beginning of the separation. But I still feel so much like my son and I are part of the same person–it’s hard to explain to other people, even to my husband, I think.
Every afternoon, my son and I cuddle and nurse and play together. This started in the semester I went back to work, when he was five months old, and at first, after being away from him for 6-8 hours, I could barely stand it anymore–I would fly across town in a cab, scoop him up from the daycare, and not let go of him until the next morning. Literally. As time went on, I got better–I would still feel itchy and ill at ease at the end of the workday, but I could usually manage to hold it together until I ran to him. And when I got to him–this was when he was eighteen, nineteen, twenty months old–I was able, sometimes, to stop at the playground on the way home from daycare, not just hold him in my arms endlessly.
But we still take this time to reconnect in a very physical way at the end of each day, late afternoon, before my husband gets home. Now I sit at the dining room table on a chair-bench made for two, and my son sits on my lap, stands on the chair, romps over me, sits on the edge of the table and falls into my arms, and plays the game my husband calls “The Liontamer,” when I, laughing, stick my nose closer and closer into my baby’s wide-open, toothy, hysterical mouth, and he plays at catching it.
If a day goes by and for some reason I don’t get this time, I feel cheated–and worse, I feel jumpy, like an addict without her fix. I said this, recently, to a friend who has gone a year being sober, now, and then I thought maybe I sounded insensitive, like I was trivializing the very serious issue of addiction. “No,” he said, thinking about it, “I think you’re right. It’s the most primal form of addiction there is, mom and baby.”
Someday, I know, my son will be completely his own separate person–just not now.
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