When I was two, I remember a day when my mother was laying on her side on the floor of our mud hut, the neighbour ladies were helping her through labour, my sister Halima was about to be born. I was crying and kicking her in the back wanting her to turn around. To see me.
Almost forty years have passed and I still recall how it felt to not have her full attention that day. She was the only one back then who I wanted to be with, the only one who mattered and the only person who showed me true affection.
When I was adopted into my Canadian family, crowded with other kids, some of them still babies; I switched the need for my parents’ attention off, I was seven after all. But an existential loneliness followed me right into my thirties. Nothing ever replaced my mother’s love.
When Deaglan came along, I realized that I could give him what was no longer available to me after I left Bangladesh; find relief, finally, from that loneliness.
I reread Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions recently where she wrote this:
"Before I got pregnant with Sam, I felt there wasn’t anything that could happen that would utterly destroy me. . . . Now there is something that could happen that I could not survive: I could lose Sam. I look down into his staggeringly lovely little face, and I can hardly breathe sometimes. He is all I have ever wanted, and my heart is so huge with love that I feel like it is about to go off. At the same time, I feel that he has completely ruined my life, because I didn’t used to care all that much."
And like everything she writes, this filled me with recognition because of course it’s exactly how I have experienced motherhood.
A few nights ago it became clear to me that Deaglan does not understand why I tend to Naveen so often. If we are sitting, Naveen is sqinched in beside me. If he isn’t sqinched to my side, he’s melted into my lap. At restaurants, a flamboyant fit ensues if I even hint that he sit across the table. And while lying down, he’s almost always nestled into my armpit.
I’ve mentioned my boys’ competition for my affection before, but this is something else. I’d been taking for granted that my just-turned five year old understood that Mommies always have to take care of the babies first. It never occurred to me that Deaglan could see that Naveen is no longer a baby, he'll be three in the Spring.
I could kick myself for how wrong I've been in my assumptions.
We were laying there, all three of us on the king sized bed one night, me sipping wine and reading, while the kids watched one last show before bed. Deaglan asked if he could have a turn to cuddle beside me. It caught me off guard because his request was not pouty or demanding.
It was a brief quiet second, one which knocked sense into me.
I'd have be more clear with this five year old of mine, this boy I have loved so big that it's impossible to measure. I would have to start pulling him close on purpose more often, give him a turn in my arms especially when he didn't ask. I'd have to let him know that I needed him beside me just as much as I need his brother. That my love for him had only grown since that first minute we met.
This is an old picture of Deaglan and me.