Are you asleep?
Eleven turns around the sun ago, the girl formerly known as Ten was born at 6:22 p.m. Eastern (6.17.02). Because she was born at a maternity center in the care of midwives, at 11:45 p.m. we were released into a soft, black, star-speckled night. The moon was high, a week or so from full. Sitting in the back seat next to this tiny wide-awake miracle, I felt a little like we were stealing her. In the morning I would wake up in my own bed, sore and tired and newly in love with my second tiny bundle.
There is very little about the first baby that prepares you for the second. Two is way more than twice one in a way I can only guess three and four and more amp up the parenthood volume. But those are clubs I’m never going to join—I’ve told Eleven and Fourteen since they were little, I have just one hand for each of them.
Whereas Fourteen walked a week before his first birthday, Eleven opted to be carried until she was nine months old. Then she started to skooch on her fanny, feet forward, knees folded into a perfect Baddha Konasana (bound angle or cobbler’s pose) from about nine months until months past her first birthday. She finally consented to roll onto hands and knees, a crawl she would perfect until walking at sixteen months.
Fourteen found language through letters, sounding “O,” “M,” and “Q,” before basic words. Eleven went the more traditional “ma ma ma ma da da da ba ba” route. Fourteen essentially potty trained himself, declaring one day that he would wear underwear. For Eleven it was Fourteen who contrived an elaborate potty-training game only the two of them really understood that somehow involved running away from Captain Hook.
I suspect all children find behavioral ways to rock their parents’ worlds, but mine have tested these waters only tenuously. When he was about eight, Fourteen purloined all of the chocolate in the house and claimed to know nothing of its whereabouts. With a playmate at not yet five, Eleven took my jewelry out of the jewelry box and arranged it on her closet floor. One other time Eleven disappeared down the street to play with a neighbor, giving her grandmother a start. But that’s it. I can call to mind no other instances; these are children that thus far have not pushed the naughty behavior envelope.
And then, on the penultimate day of fifth grade, Eleven came home in tears. She had been sent to the principal’s office! And it wasn’t, as once had happened for Fourteen, to eat M & Ms. She had done something naughty, a little mean, actually, and had gotten caught.
She is not at all by nature mean-spirited, but she certainly tests more than her brother has. Perhaps as she grows from zero teen to tween toward teenager, the tests will become more extreme. Perhaps she’ll self correct. Certainly she found her last experience far more disturbing than she could have imagined. The night of the incident, remorse was hers in the form of an upset tummy throughout a social dinner with her friends.
In behavior, I’m more like Fourteen than Eleven—still I have a catalogue, small but real, of hurts that I inflicted on other people. There was the girl, Sara, who locked herself in the bathroom during third grade. I don’t now remember what I said, but I know I was at fault. There were several high school and college romances I ended without grace or care. There was the first-semester student I graded too low, caught in a torque of grade-curve expectations and graduate-instructor department policies.
I’d love to protect my children from being hurt, but I think now about how I’d like to protect them even more from hurting others. That they will get hurt is unavoidable. Making wise, reasoned choices will help, but nothing entirely protects us from the actions of others. Personal responsibility, however, walking the world with a careful foot—this is perhaps something we can learn how to do together. Will it prevent any of us from ever hurting another? No, of course not. Are there instances when self-preservation means inflicting emotional or physical pain on another? Alas, there are. But thinking about what it means to be mean, I think I can take a stand that it’s unnecessary. Mean actions intend to inflict harm. We may have a panoply of reasons for wanting to cause pain to another, but I’m challenged to find a time when such a desire fits with my own life philosophy.
It’s tempting to shake my head and wonder where the last eleven years went. In conversation with a wise friend, I once said that the years go by quickly but the days of parenthood, from the very first, are long. She replied, “Of course, because you’re awake so much more of the time.” It’s funny to me that twice recently when I’ve known I was very much awaken near the end of body treatments, my practitioners have asked me: “Robin, are you awake?” Oh yes, yes I am. I need to be. The challenging part of parenthood is just beginning.
The full moon 6.23, solstice 6.21—in 2016 they will occur simultaneously. Until then, we stretch our magic out, from Sparkle Girl’s Eleventh birthday, to the Solstice, to the Full Strawberry Super Moon. Happy Magical June, Rxo