Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The rocking chair

Many years ago when I was first moving out on my own, I went to a garage sale and bought an old wooden rocking chair from a woman who actually seemed quite reluctant to sell it. As I handed her my money, she looked at me with brimming tears and a sad smile and said "Treat it well, I rocked my babies to sleep in that chair." At the time, my 19 year-old brain thought her sentimentality over a piece of furniture was sweet but a little over the top. Today I get it. Oh, do I ever get it.

Upstairs in my baby's nursery sits a blue and white gingham patterned rocker. It's nothing special to look at, the same as many other rockers you will find in baby stores all over town, although even a casual observer would have to admit that it looks darn comfortable. But what that observer wouldn't and couldn't know is that my heart has seeped so deeply into its fabric that it's practically a part of me.

How can a simple chair become a part of you, you wonder? Well allow me to shed a little light. Over the past 4 years I have nursed 3 babies in that chair, hour after hour, day after day, night after night. I have cradled newborns as they slept, I have rocked crying babies as they teethed and I have soothed weeping toddlers when they were frightened. In that chair I have been graced with first smiles, first giggles, and first coos. From that chair I have watched the sun rise and fall, the seasons change, and my babies grow up. Week after week, month after month, year after year.

In that chair I have felt happiness beyond belief and exhaustion beyond comprehension. In that chair I have felt both helpless and invincible. In that chair I have felt a love more powerful than any emotion I have ever experienced. In that chair I have felt alive. In that chair I finally became who I was always meant to be: a nurturer, a protector... a Mother.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Personality profile

A couple of weeks ago my friends Cindy and Wilson loaned me a booked entitled "Positive Personality Profiles" by Robert A. Rohm, Ph.D. Always a sucker for self analysis, I took it home and read it in less than a day. The book basically confirmed what I have known for years: I am an extremely anal, task-oriented, anti-social, controlling perfectionist - or what they call the "C" personality type. It also revealed that I am weary of other people's kindness, always looking for a hidden meaning behind it. The author summed it up perfectly when he said that when faced with a display of appreciation, a person with my personality type will wonder: "Am I being manipulated? Are you trying to get something by me? Hmmmm, what's going on here?" I had to laugh out loud at this. It's so true.

Self-scrutiny aside, this book was an interesting read for a whole other reason: trying to peg my kids' personalities. I think that I managed to get a handle on Nicki's fairly easily. She has always struck me as a people-pleaser, a girl who likes being around people but is essentially reserved. According to the book, this would make her an "S" personality. As I read more about this particular personality type, I saw more and more of Nicki in every page. They enjoy routine and believe readily in "a place for everything and everything in its place", they need a lot of security, they are submissive and take orders very well, they like the status quo or sameness and they are very sentimental. The author noted that "S" type children are often the easiest to parent and I would definitely have to agree.

But to be honest, I had never really given much thought to what her personality type would mean for her in the future, how it would help or harm her in the years ahead. Knowing that she is a people-pleaser raises questions for me on how she will behave as a teenager for example. Will she be able to say no when not-so-well-meaning friends try to steer her toward behaviours she should avoid? Will she cave into peer pressure? Will she have enough self-esteem and confidence in herself to be her own person and live by the values we have taught her throughout her young life? What can we do now in the early years to bolster that self-esteem, ingrain those core values and teach her to stand by her convictions?

Gabe's personality on the other hand was much harder to pin down. Before he even reached a year old, it was obvious that he and Nicki were polar opposites of each other and as time went by the differences became even more pronounced. He learns in a different way, responds to discipline in a different way and interacts in a different way. According to the book, the opposite of Nicki's personality would be the "D" personality, and I while I have to admit many of the characteristics do seem to fit - demanding, strong-willed, defiant - they probably also characterize 99% of all of the 2 year olds out there.

So while it may be too soon yet to determine exactly what personality type Gabe is, one thing is for certain, these two kids are VERY different from each other, which means I have my work cut out for me in the months and years ahead. Add Roxy to the mix and who knows what her emerging personality will bring to the dynamic! The same parenting style is definitely not going to work for all of them, which means I am going to have to tailor my parenting to each different child and each different circumstance - not an easy task for a control-freak "C" type like me!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A time for bonding

The sound of your cries breaks through the wall of my sleep and pulls me back into the conscious world. I pry my eyes open and squint at the clock, barely making out the big green 2:38 am that is staring back at me. I close my eyes for a second more, wondering if it was just my imagination, but you cry out again and I know that I wasn't just dreaming. I haul myself out of my warm cocoon of a bed and pull on my bathrobe, trying but failing to recreate the effect. Your cries are becoming more insistent now and I know that I need to hurry. I stumble down the hall to your room, flicking the light switch on as I go, still more awake than asleep.

I slowly open the door to your room and tiptoe in. The floor creaks under my feet as I cross the room to pick you up out of your crib. As soon as I envelop you in my arms your crying stops, almost as though you know that your need is about to be met, that now that I am here everything is going to be ok. I carry you back across the room and over to a rocker that evokes so many emotions in me, I can't even begin to put them into words.

I open up my bathrobe and put you to my breast, finally giving you exactly what it is that you needed. You latch on immediately and drink with the vigor of one who has just run a marathon, scaled a mountain, or simply spent the last two hours growing while she slept. I close my eyes as I listen to the sounds of you sucking and swallowing, so rhythmic that it's almost musical, so fulfilling that it's incredibly beautiful. I force myself to open my eyes, not wanting to miss a moment, determined to stay awake.

As you slow down your pace and begin to drift off yourself, I gaze in wonder at the perfect little human being that you are. The dim light from the hall illuminates your features in such a way that they appear almost angelic in the glow. I let my eyes wander over the features of your face, the delicate slope of your nose, the curve of your ear, the length of your eyelashes. The contrast that the juxtaposition of your dark hair and your pale skin creates is mesmerizing.

I look down at your tiny hand, fingers splayed across my breast as though holding on to the source of your contentment. I let my mind wander toward thoughts of the future, of what those hands may one day accomplish. I watch the hypnotic rhythm of your chest rising and falling with each breath that you take and my own breath is taken away as I realize that I had a hand in creating the life that is nestled in my arms.

Tears cloud my vision for a while as these thoughts swirl through my mind and when they spill over onto my cheeks, I suddenly realize that you have fallen asleep. Not wanting this moment to end quite yet, I take a little more time to soak in every last detail, making sure to sear this image of you into my memory forever. Then ever so slowly I rise from the rocker and carry you back to your crib, laying you down as gently as I would a porcelain doll. You squirm for a second and then sigh as your body goes slack and sleep envelops you once more.

I tiptoe out and close the door behind me, making my way back to my own bed. I crawl in and curl up into a ball, still feeling your warmth on my chest. I let images of you fill my head as I drift off, knowing that you will soon be calling for me again and feeling joy for the privilege of being the one to sustain your precious life.

Mommy loves you Roxy. Sweet dreams.