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Training to Let Go (One Day, Not Yet)

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 9.36.45 AM

Last week Jackson woke in the middle of the night from a nightmare. I gave him a couple minutes to calm himself down and go back to sleep, but, when he didn’t stop crying, I quietly got up and headed into his room.

“Shhh,” I said, “Shh… it’s ok. It’s just a dream.”

“Mama?” he said.

In the dark I bent over his crib and lifted him into my arms. He rested his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around me.

“It’s ok,” I said, patting his head and rocking him side to side. “It was just a bad dream.”

It’s been many months — almost a year — since I held him in my arms as a baby and suddenly the bulk of his weight against me like that, I remembered and I missed it. He has turned into a little boy with a big vocabulary and and even bigger personality. He has experiences now that I’m not part of and a social circle that doesn’t include me. He’s opinionated and he’s funny and … he is his own person, separate from me in a way I am only beginning to fully appreciate.

Back in July, when I made a solo trip to Chicago to visit friends, I picked up a little wooden red line train to bring home to Jackson. When the three of us went back over Labor Day weekend for a wedding, we got him a blue line train, and for his birthday he got two NYC subway trains to add to his collection. We also got him a train track starter set, and in the three weeks since turning two he has spent countless hours lying on his bedroom floor pushing his trains up and down those tracks.

Not only is this behavior a 180 from his usual go-go-gotta-get-outside-RIGHT-NOW routine, he has made it very clear that he enjoys playing independently — another very recent change.

“Bye bye, Mommy,” he said to me a few mornings ago when I crouched down on the floor next to him and started pushing the red line train down the tracks.

“See ya later, Mommy,” he tried again, gently moving my hand off his train.

His babysitter would be coming to pick him up soon to take him out for the morning and I was already dressed in my running gear so I could get a quick jog in before getting to work. He eyed my ensemble and tried one more time.

“Go exercise, Mommy,” he said, not unkindly, but firmly.

Point taken. I got up and poured myself a cup of coffee and sat at the computer to check my email.

Several hours later, when he came back home from his morning out with his babysitter, he swung the front door open and exclaimed: “Mommy!” running over to me. I picked him up and swung him around, kissing his face and telling him I missed him. I took off his shoes and jacket and asked if he wanted a snack.

He shook his head and said, “Play with trains,” making his priorities clear.

“Ok, let’s play with trains for a few minutes before nap time,” I replied.

I waited for him to tell me to leave his room, but he didn’t. And when one of his trains derailed, falling off the track, he picked it up and handed it to me, saying, “Uh-oh, Mommy, fix this,” and I did.

I figure my days of being able to fix things for him are already numbered. I can put a train back on course, and I can sew a loose button on his shirt, and I can get most stains out of his clothes, but eventually there will be bigger problems that I can’t fix — misunderstandings between him and his friends or embarrassment in school or a day when he experiences loss in a way he’s been spared so far. And I imagine that more than losing him bit by bit to the world of wonder around him, watching him be hurt or confused or sad and not being able to fix it will sting the most as his mother.

“Mommy!” Jackson exclaims, running out of his bedroom waving two trains. “Fix this!”

“Ok!” I reply, taking the trains from him and following him to his room, where I place them back on the track and push them through the tunnel.

“There,” I say, “It’s fixed.”

“Thank you, Mommy,” he says, “Bye bye.”

“Not yet,” I reply and continue pushing the trains. “I want to play with you a little while longer.”

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avatar bethany October 30, 2013, 2:06 pm

<3

Classic Classic October 30, 2013, 2:10 pm

Oh, Wendy. This is so sweet and beautiful.

CurlyQue CurlyQue October 30, 2013, 2:20 pm

That was a wonderfully sweet story Wendy, thank you for sharing it.

avatar MissDre October 30, 2013, 2:26 pm

Loved this.

avatar kerrycontrary October 30, 2013, 2:45 pm

Awww <3

avatar TECH October 30, 2013, 2:57 pm

I love your essays on parenthood, and how heartbreaking it can be, Wendy. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my own parents, and how I have no idea what I would do without them, especially this year, which has been an especially tough one.
Last night I had a really intense dream where my dad died. I just can’t even imagine how my world will fall apart when that day actually comes.
I guess it’s a two way street when it comes to loss. Parents grieve as their children grow up. But eventually children experience the loss of their parents too.
I know that was really heavy, but I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson October 30, 2013, 3:02 pm

I spent my last long run (6 miles… so about an hour) thinking about my Dad dying. I imagined planning the funeral. I imagined how it would affect me even years after he would be gone. People tell me all the time that I’m more like my Dad than my Dad is. I imagined all the things I haven’t got to tell him and all the things I don’t know about him. I imagined how sad it is that when he dies he won’t know the end of my story. He’s been there for all of it so far, but he won’t get to see the end.

And then my run was done and it didn’t even suck despite the cold because I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts, those 6 miles felt like a block.

Anyway I don’t know what the point of sharing that is. In summary, I wish my Dad would take better care of his health because to this day I can’t schedule a car appointment on my own and I just don’t want to. I want him to be there forever to help me with everything. I need to know that everything will always be okay because no matter what happens he’s there to bail me out. I need that.

Fabelle Fabelle October 30, 2013, 3:17 pm

Oh god, between Wendy’s narrative & your comment, I’mma ’bout to cry :(

avatar bethany October 30, 2013, 3:21 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks about this stuff. I think about losing my parents a lot, and recently I think about losing my grandmother all the time. It makes me so sad when I think that when/if I have a kid it might not ever get to know her like I do.

avatar kerrycontrary October 30, 2013, 4:07 pm

My grandma is most definitely not going to be around when I have kids and it makes me so sad :( I spent more time with my grandparents than I did with my parents until I was about 14. I also worry about my parents since they’re both overweight. We have great longevity in my family on both sides (everyone lives to above 85) but I still worry that they don’t exercise.

avatar FossilChick October 30, 2013, 4:58 pm

My family has a strange dynamic where my grandmother was closer to her grandmother than her mother, my mother was closer to her grandmother than her mom/my grandma, and I’m closer to my grandmother than my mother. I, too, spent more time with my grandmother than my mother until I was a young adult. But a combination of my being born late in my mom’s fertile years and my grandmother’s failing health mean that any child of mine won’t know her, and that makes me incredibly sad even though it hasn’t happened yet and my grandmother is still living. The immediate future is a strange beast.

iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson October 30, 2013, 2:58 pm

Every time you write anything about being a mom I wish you were my mom, which is crazy because my mom is awesome. You just seem so present in his life and like you don’t take the phases for granted. You also make me want a kid, which is weird because I never really feel that way. Sometimes I think I can’t not having kids, which is different than knowing I want them someday. It would also help if it was guaranteed that my kid looked like Jackson.

Stonegypsy Stonegypsy October 30, 2013, 3:02 pm

I just got all teary eyed. Seriously. I have no other comment aside from: What a sweet story.

Fabelle Fabelle October 30, 2013, 3:13 pm

Wendy <3<3

avatar something random October 30, 2013, 3:35 pm

I feel like this a lot. My five year old will still make trains with me. He is way more interested in my attention now that he has a brother he thinks he has to compete with for it. Just a few short years and he’s older and more capable and we’ve felt our way through sharing, teasing, anxiety (yes he’s my kid) and giant feelings he isn’t always able to understand or express. I’ve gotten more confident in myself and in him. This isn’t to say that I’m not reduced to a pile a goop every time a new challenge happens and I feel lost. But I’m starting to really believe I’m okay at this and that he is resilient and strong. I think I’m going to go to pieces when the day comes when we can give his trains away.

avatar SasLinna October 30, 2013, 4:18 pm

I used to play with the same type of traintracks when I was a child. Cute picture of Jackson!

rosie posie rosie posie October 30, 2013, 4:19 pm

Wow Wendy, that was beautiful! I love that you appreciate all those small changes with Jackson. So many parents seem to miss those things because they are so distracted. You’re a great mom.

Addie Pray Addie Pray October 30, 2013, 6:22 pm

I could read Wendy’s personal essays all the live long day! I still remember the day I “discovered” City Wendy just a couple months before she began Dear Wendy, and I printed off all the alphabet series ones and headed to my favorite (allegedly) mafia-run pizzeria and read them all over their $14.95 “recession special” (1 large pizza + 2 glasses of house wine), which they recently raised the prices to $19.95 without telling me – gasp). They also fired my favorite bus boy and no told me that either, and my favorite waitress Gretchen has not been seen in awhile and I hate change. That was a fun evening after work.

Also, look at J’s curly hair. I love it. And I got to kiss his face like 4 times – boom!

lemongrass lemongrass October 30, 2013, 8:26 pm

I love your essays on parenthood. It feels like looking into the not so distant future. E is already an independent kid, never had stranger anxiety and crawls right out of any room, at home or in a new environment. Even so, at 9 months separation anxiety has hit and E wants to simultaneously be held and play. We read a lot of stories. So it is good to be reminded that I will miss this.

Cassie Cassie B October 30, 2013, 8:34 pm

What a gift it will be for him to read these beautiful essays many years from now. Your love for your son is so evident even in your writing.

avatar d2 October 30, 2013, 8:35 pm

That was a wonderful story Wendy.

fast eddie fast eddie October 30, 2013, 8:56 pm

Wendy dearest, twenty +/- years from now I hope you can pull up your articles about Jackson and shed a few tears of joy remembering the moments like this latest one. Your a great Mom.

I brought home 7 kittens to foster yesterday. It’s a put together litter, our 4th this year, with a mama kitty. We’ve not had this many at once before and it’s going great. It’s a privilege to watch these tiny beings discover the world and returning more love then their tiny hearts have room to store, so I can relate, at least a little.

BYW have you and Drew thought about having another baby?

avatar spot October 30, 2013, 11:32 pm

Loved this! So beautiful.

avatar thatgirl October 31, 2013, 11:21 am

I love reading these too. My last little one isn’t so little anymore, and I can see the baby in her disappearing more every day. It makes me sad, but I enjoy watching her grow and change.

avatar Allie October 31, 2013, 12:16 pm

Very sweet story. It made me a bit teary eyed. I’m going to try to remember this in a few months… to slow down and enjoy all of the moments with baby after she is born .