but I finally feel like Harrison and I have bonded. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you, maybe it does. I don’t mean that it took over two years for me to love Harrison or enjoy being around him. His grandparents love him and enjoy being around him. His teachers are the same way. Not to take anything away from them, but it’s not the same. And, well, for a long time, I felt like it was the same. Confused yet? Maybe I should back up.
Harrison was an easy baby. I’m talking, we asked the doctor at his first appointment (3 days in) how long we could let him sleep at night before waking him up. He loved eating. I enjoyed nursing him. As soon as he was born, and I could hold him, he latched on and was good to go. It was this special thing that only I, his mother, could do. Then, we introduced bottles because I had to go back to work, and we wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to refuse a bottle. Maybe that’s when it happened? Although Harrison never stopped enjoying nursing, he also enjoyed a bottle. Read: It didn’t really matter where the milk was coming from. When Harrison was hungry, he was hungry. I by no means wanted a baby who wouldn’t let anyone else feed him, and a bottle allowed me the freedom to be gone if need be during a feeding session, but it also meant there was no longer this event that only happened between Harrison and Mommy.
I think since Harrison was easy, I took a lot for granted. Instead of focusing on all that was good about our son, I started worrying about any and everything that was “wrong”. I got upset when he was upset. I had a hard time if he struggled with a nap. I would freak out if Harrison spent a nap talking and playing. I thought WHY AREN’T YOU SLEEPING? It worried me if he was fussing instead of being a happy baby while I was trying to accomplish something while he was awake. Basically, I didn’t respond to Harrison very well. Instead, I reacted to him. Of course, I played with him, read books to him, sang to him, took him on walks… Maybe what I didn’t do, though, was foster his sense of self. He reached milestones on or ahead of time. He flourished. I’m not sure that our relationship did, though. I constantly worried about what he was or wasn’t doing. I don’t know that it occurred to me that he was fussing as he played alone because he wanted me to observe his accomplishments and talk to him. Maybe he was telling me he just wanted me to be present, instead of thinking and worrying about it so much.
When I look back at Harrison’s babyhood(?), I am proud and happy about so many things. I also get this awful feeling that I missed a lot. I was there for everything, but I still don’t know how present I was. It’s so easy to get caught up in things; the wrong things. I understand that it’s typical for boys to want to bond with their fathers. I read over and over again how common that is, and that it’s nothing personal against the mother. Sons yearn for that interaction and bond with their father. There’s a part of me that couldn’t help but wonder if I didn’t miss my chance for that coveted mother-son bond. Other moms talked to me about “momma’s boys”, and I kept waiting for my son to be one. I didn’t want a clingy son who cried when I left or only wanted me, but I did frequently wonder, “Where was this boy who was supposed to ask for me and run to me and hug me?”. I received, and still do, plenty of hugs and kisses from Harrison, but I can’t explain why it wasn’t the same. All I can tell you is that it was tough. Really tough. I often felt pushed to the sidelines while my son ran to his father and sought out his “daddy” when I tried to initiate an interaction. Harrison would cry because I wasn’t his daddy. That hurt.
So, I got upset. I got upset at Harrison for not wanting me instead of David. I got upset when I didn’t seem good enough for him. What was I doing that was so wrong? And, it’s not that I was necessarily doing a lot of things wrong, but I wasn’t focusing on what I could do right. I wasn’t focusing on what I could with those precious moments that Harrison did allow me into his world. I can’t tell you how many times we’d be playing, and Harrison would get upset (as toddlers do), and I got upset along with him. Frequently, opportunities to talk about emotions and appropriate responses were lost to battles over who could be the loudest and threats to take things away. If someone could have slapped my hand or told me, “tssk, tssk”, they would have. Many times.
I cried. A lot. I cried for and about Harrison. I cried about my behavior. I cried in front of him, to David, to my Mom, by myself. I cried. A lot. Then I became pregnant. That didn’t help. That first trimester was ROUGH. The entire pregnancy was rough. I already talked about, though. I cried more because I felt so out of sync with Harrison that the thought of another boy was emotionally too much. I cried to my mom that I didn’t think I could handle another son who would love his daddy more than me. That’s where I was at one point. I felt like Harrison loved me less. I didn’t blame him. I blamed myself, but I just didn’t feel like I could do it again.
Then Becket was born, and it was tough again. Harrison lashed out at us because his world was so different. In less than 3 months, we had potty-trained him, put him in school 5 days/week, and brought home a sibling. Not to mention, that just 6 months prior, we’d uprooted him and moved halfway across the country. We like to go big or go home around here. Nothing about what he was doing was abnormal, but that didn’t mean it was easier. Once again, I didn’t handle it well. I was now trying to be a mother to two boys on 3-4 hr spurts of sleep at night. I wasn’t doing it alone, of course, I’m just letting you know how I felt and handled things. Unfortunately, my threshold was even lower, and shouting matches became more frequent. I can’t claim to understand what it must be like to a 2-year-old who was the center of his parents’ and everyone else’s universe and suddenly has to share that with someone else. I know that I didn’t put it into perspective. Once again, I took for granted how “grown-up” Harrison seemed, and expected more of him. Too much.
Not to say my husband and others didn’t help or try to help, but I think Harrison being in a Montessori school, and me talking to the beautiful people there, helped me immensely. Stay with me here. Montessori isn’t just an educational philosophy, it’s a way of life. What hit home for me, is that we can’t just send Harrison off to learn all these wonderful lessons and bring them home without our home environment being a place where he can develop those skills. What I saw was how capable my son is, but also how much he looks to his environment for “help”. As part of that environment, I really wasn’t being present in the way he needed me. And I needed to understand that how he needed me, and how I thought he needed me, were two different things. That has been a hugh revelation.
Our relationship has gotten so much better. I think Harrison respects and trusts me more because I show him more respect and trust. And that sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s not for me, anyway. For example, it is hard to respect Harrison’s right to be independent and not need my help when I think he’s going to make a mistake. I understand now (most of the time), that when I allow him to do things on his own, he most certainly will make a mistake, but that is a good thing, and he will learn something invaluable from that mistake. I have to trust that Harrison’s love for me is not based on his dependence on me, but on the fact that I give him opportunities to learn and do things at his own pace. Most importantly, I shouldn’t expect him to love me and want to have a relationship with me just because I am his mother. I should expect to earn his love everyday and show and tell him that I am always here for him no matter what. Repeat after me, Amy, no matter what.