Thursday, August 18, 2016

Little Man

I held my firstborn grandchild for the first time this week. It was surreal. Looking into his face, I saw my firstborn son, and I was once more an over-joyed--and terrified--new mother.

Tiny fingers. Tiny toes. Tiny, but strong nose and chin hinting at the strong-willed, and capable man he would become. Silky smooth skin so delicate. Bright, intense stare. Little puckered brow. So serious, little man.

That was what I called him, my firstborn: Little Man. And it is what I overhear my son and daughter-in-law calling their son. Little Man. And he is exactly that. A little Man.

I was always keenly aware of my role. Even when my son was six-weeks old and I found myself sobbing, convinced I could not do another eighteen years of "this", a part of me understood that I was his mother, his caregiver, his guide. Not his owner. And he was then, as he is now, his own man. A little person entrusted to me to teach right from wrong and good from bad. To feed, to shelter, to love, and protect. To educate and discipline. And it overwhelmed. That was what "this" was.

This was the trauma of not knowing. Not knowing if what I was doing was right. Not knowing if he was hungry, or wet, or had gas, was too hot, too cold, or was simply lonely. Was it safe to let him sleep on his back? Front? Disposable or washable? Spatula-shaped soother? Nipple-shaped? None at all? What if I make a mistake and screw him up for life?

My grandson, Daxon.
Photo copyright 2016, Deborah Anderson
The fear was real, and questions racing around in my head as varied and numerous as the opinions proffered by those with experience.

Lay him on his belly. Prop him on his side. Don't pick him up when he cries. Pick him up and pack him around every chance you get. Keep him in your room. Put him in his own room. Night light. No night light. Nurse him in bed. Never take him into your bed...

No wonder I was wreck. But somehow, I muddled through. And learned to listen to my heart.

Over twenty-eight years later, as I watch my son and daughter-in-law manage their two-week-old son  with the calm efficiency I felt I lacked as a new parent, I cannot be more proud.

Yes, they're tired. Yes, they're uncertain about some things. But they are confident in ways with my grandson that I was not with his father, and it buoys my heart.

They are good parents. They will be good parents. And my grandson will one day be a good man, just like his father. And grandfathers.


If you would have your son to walk honourably through the world, you must not attempt to clear the stones from his path, but teach him to walk firmly over them -- not insist upon leading him by the hand, but let him learn to go alone. ~ ANNE BRONTË, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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