Saturday, May 3, 2008

Being "The Mommy"

I'm used to working with kids, all sort of kids. Small kids, big kids, young kids, old kids, happy kids, screaming kids. Most of them like me, ask for me to come back as their babysitter, run around the house in excitement when I show up. They curl up with me on the couch at bedtime, ask for me to read them stories, and fall asleep in my arms. But there is one thing that all of these kids had in common: I was not the mommy.

There was always someone that ranked higher in their minds than me. No matter how much they laughed at my jokes, loved running around and playing with me, begged me to read them a story, there was always someone who made their face light up, their voice change, their steps a bit lighter. Someone else. I was not the mommy.

I remember when this first hit home with me. I was "babysitting" a nine month old boy, the son of a friend. I put "babysitting" in quotes because there were about five of us girls hanging out and we were all watching him, so it really wasn't that big of a task. We fed him and changed him and played with him...and when it came time for bed, we tried to put him to sleep. Nothing would take. We rocked him and sang to him and walked around with him; we talked to him and hummed to him and all he would do was scream. Scream his little head off, scream like the world was ending, scream so loud I was genuinely concerned he might break something. We were helpless. And then, after about 20 minutes of desperately trying to figure out what was wrong with this child, his mother came back through the door. I apologetically handed him to her, saying that we had tried to get him to calm down. The next thing I witnessed was miraculous. This screaming, livid child hit his mother's arms...and was silenced. He instantly settled into her breast and fell asleep. It was then that I matter how "good" at taking care of this child I was...I am not the mommy.

I remember the first time I really felt like Ariana's "mommy." We were at Justin's school and we were showing her off to all of his teacher friends. After a while, I guess she just got overstimulated and started fussing. The teacher who was holding her at the time said, "Oh! Guess it's time to go back to Mom," and handed her to me. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. I am the mommy.

Ari has started sobbing, and I mean really sobbing. I'm talking big teddy bear tears, red eyes, monster pout, quivering lower lip, and that characteristic and desperate half-shaky gasp in between wails. And I love...I love...that I am the one that gets to comfort her. There is no comfort that trumps mine, no higher earthly power to which she can plead. Sitting on the couch at 6:00 and just rocking her, I am not waiting for Mommy to come home. I'm not watching the clock wondering if I should just feed her or wait...I'm not reaching for my cell phone to call for backup or see how much longer they're going to be...I'm just rocking her. Because she's mine. Because there isn't going to be a Mommy to walk through the front door and take her away from me. Because I'm the one who comes home to her. Because I'm the one she smiles at when she wakes up. Because I'm the one whose sleeve she grips while bouncing in my arms. Because I'm the one whose lips she tries so hard to trace and follow with her own, whose face she can now awkwardly and clumsily grab for, whose voice makes even those teddy bear tears and desperate sobs fade away. Because she calms to my voice, settles into my arms, and slows her breathing when she feels my breath. I'm the one who gets to hold her, because there is no one else to hand her to. Finally...finally...I am the mommy.


Rachel said...

I'm going to cry. That was awesome! Can you get that published? You are an awesome writer!

Hey, was that Jacob you were talking about? I think I remember something similar to that.

Amber said...

:) Thanks, and yes, that was Jacob.