Thursday, January 27, 2011

Five Minutes with Alyce

More snow.

Alyce was all ready for preschool this morning and Matt had gone outside to dig out the car (another blizzard last night). I was charged with getting Alyce's coat and boots on, but when I saw Alyce quietly spread out across the couch I was overcome with an urge to snuggle my three year old. I've always been a procrastinator.

The trouble is, Alyce isn't a snuggler. Oh, how she would please her mama if she would snuggle with me all the time, but that just isn't her way. On the day Alyce was born, having just returned home from the hospital a few hours after the birth, I had no idea how or where Alyce was supposed to sleep. It was late, we'd been up for over two days, and I was that kind of tired you get when you push out a baby. I placed Alyce in her enormous crib and realized that she was just too teeny tiny for a crib just yet. Our midwife had suggested that she just sleep with us, and while Matt and I had decided we weren't ready for co-sleeping, I figured I would give it a chance. What newborn, having just arrived on the outside, wouldn't want to snuggle with her mama in bed? Alyce, it turns out. She ended up spending the next two weeks in her car seat.

Can't you just hear her saying no to another hug?
Alyce, 2010

Alyce has never, not once, wanted to snuggle up and sleep with me. Well, actually, there was that fifteen minute stretch during a thunderstorm in 2010. And did she ever snuggle hard. Thunder aside, Alyce has never enjoyed being in bed with anyone, and sometimes just sitting too close together on the couch irritates her. She has always proclaimed her independence loud and clear, and if I ever had any doubts and thought I could sneak in a snuggle, my efforts were almost always met with an annoyed sigh (I think the annoyed sigh comes before the eye roll that she'll develop in a few years). I used to have one trick up my sleeve: for twenty-two months I was rewarded with snuggles when she was too busy to notice. When I would breastfeed Alyce, with her mind so focused on milk, she would lean in, wrap her hands around me, and relax in my arms. It took all of me not to smirk and boast about how I'd won and she'd been tricked, but I knew all too well that if Alyce was alerted to her carelessness she would immediately make distance between us. So I enjoyed it for almost two years, until I became pregnant with Shira. I miss nursing Alyce all the time, especially now that I have very little with which to lure her.

I love my relationship with Alyce. I know she loves me fiercely, and that she is delighted to see me each morning (except for those first few weeks after Shira was born). I sometimes feel that our relationship is so big and intense that we can become almost too close, if that makes any sense. On these days we are sensitive to one another and some times get our feelings hurt. And even on those days when I think she doesn't have much use for me, I can see her doing things to let me know otherwise (like having a meltdown the second I walk in the door if I've been away for the afternoon). What I've learned these past three years is that I can't control how Alyce loves me. I know that she does love me, but it's not up to me how she shows it. While most days she runs across her classroom at preschool to give me kisses and hugs, other days she needs her distance. And when I want to hug her good-bye in the morning, she'd rather show off her cool, calm, and collected self and just wave good-bye.

This morning, something sort of magical happened. Maybe it was the electricity of last night's snow storm (or something like that), but instead of pushing me away when I slid onto the couch with her, instead of moving the arm I slid across her, she snuggled right in. Without even speaking, she just settled in my arms and began to stroke my hair. Her big eyes took all of me in, as though she was either seeing me for the first time, or trying to memorize the rounds of my eyes and the wave of my hair so that she'd never forget. Then she rubbed my back, just like we used to do to her before bed. It was five minutes of bliss, and I'm not ashamed to say so.

For someone who, sigh, loves to be in control, Alyce has taught me that it's just not possible--at least not where it counts. Part of what makes these relationships so magnificent is that they are in many ways beyond our control. This is a very difficult lesson for me to learn. It's my thing, you could say. But I'm learning: we can decide how we want to act (I can tell her everyday that I love her or that I love being her mama) but I can't tell Alyce what to do. And when she does show me, I have to say, it's pretty amazing. I mean, look at this face:

P.S. Shira would prefer to snuggle at least twenty-three out of twenty-four hours each day. Be careful what you wish for, I remind myself when we're 'snuggling' together multiple times a night.

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