My son was a premie. He was a c-section baby and the doctor got his dates wrong. We stayed in the hospital for five days while his lungs grew stronger. I could not hold him for the first four days and it was really hard. I wanted to touch him, hold him, snuggle him close to me. But I could not. He was in an incubator and so I laid in my hospital bed with no baby, feeling very empty. They could not bring him into my room and it was not until the fourth day that they would allow me to go see him. My pregnancy with him was a breeze. I lost three pounds of my pre pregnancy weight after I had him. My doctor joked that was a hell of a way to lose a few pounds. He was such an easy baby. He had a wonderful personality and was such a joy. he learned to crawl early and then to walk. He loved to climb on everything. He was such a boy, so active. When I was heavy with the pregnancy of his younger sister Jess, his older sister rushed into my bed room very early in the morning. She was four and very much the big sister. She was saying she was so sorry. Over and over again she said it. She was in a panic. I jumped up from bed, as much as my lumbering body would allow. And there he was, this little troublemaker. He had climbed onto the kitchen counter, after raiding the refrigerator. He had taken a tub of butter and rubbed all over his body. I mean ALL over. It was also on the floor, on the counter tops, smeared in his hair and ears. And then, as if he was making an exotic body scrub, he had added coffee grounds. An entire bag of the stuff. Amber had tried to get him off the counter and he had taken the little glass pot for the espresso machine and hit her in the head with it, breaking it and adding glass to the mix. Thankfully no one got hurt. As soon as he saw me, he smiled so sweetly, with a degree of innocence that only the guilty can master. He held out his little pudgy arms for me to pick him up. There were broken eggs and somehow he had managed to open a jar of pickles and they too were added to his concoction. Into the shower I went with him. It took two days to get all the butter off of him. But I could not be mad. He was never more lovable then when he was being naughty. He was so happy that you had discovered whatever mess he had created.
At ten months he climbed out of his crib. He climbed up a bookcase to the top shelf, about four feet off the ground and knocked off all the books and laid there on his tummy, laughing and squealing until I came and got him. He climbed out of his bedroom window when he was laid down for a nap. He was never surly or cranky. He was a handful. Not in a bad way, he was just so active and such a daredevil. We used to play a game with him. We would take a big ball, one of those rubber ones with the bright colors and roll it towards him and knock him over. He would laugh like a chipmunk. And then he would grab the ball and totter back to you with it and then run away so you could do it all over again. I called it bowling for Bubba. He was the most even tempered, big hearted child. But, something was wrong. He did not talk. Sometimes, rarely he would say something to me. And I got the impression that he could not hear me. He would ignore what I said and not pay attention. I took him to the Naval doctors, over and over again. They all said the same thing. That he was just ignoring me. But I knew that was not so. That was not his nature. I kept going back, through check ups and shots appointments and every time I told them, he can't hear me. Finally, when he was four we got a good doctor. One who listened and did not treat me like a hysterical new mother. His ears were severely infected. He would have to have tubes. I was so nervous, waiting while he had surgery to place those tubes. And when they finally gave him back to me, to hold while he was recovering, I whispered in his ear. I told him I loved him, as I held him close. He turned in my arms and looked me right in the eyes and said " I can hear you". I remember that moment so clearly. It is one of my most treasured memories as a mother.
He would do backflips into the pool at the apartments we were living at. He was only four. I don't know how he learned these stunts, but he did and he was good at them. There were always girls where ever he was. He was very popular with the females. When he was five, we were out grocery shopping. He and his father and I, and for some reason his father was being a jerk. I cannot remember why, it could be everything or nothing with him. My husband said something unkind and I took the shopping cart and moved away from him. And then my son said it. He asked a question it would take me years to answer. He asked me why I did not divorce his father. I was shocked and sad. I hadn't known he even knew that word. My children were very aware and things that I thought went right over their heads did not. They saw everything and in an honesty you could only find in their innocence, and my son had gotten to the root of it all with a simplicity that caught me off balance. I had not expected to be discussing my marriage with a five year old. I don't know how I answered him all those years ago. But I will always remember the sadness I felt when he asked it.
He is a good man. In his twenties now. I can't believe how fast it has gone, those years of play dates and Tonka toys. I am proud of the person he is. He has learned from my mistakes and sometimes, that is all that can be done. There are so many things I wish I had done differently, better. But I did not know all the things I know now. Sometimes I wish for a do over. I could be such a better mother now. I know I could. But that is not the way it works and it is not a good idea to wish away today while reaching for yesterday. It does no good to waste time on such things. So I try everyday to be that good mother. Because he still needs me, they all still need me. Not to make sandwiches and play taxi, no. They need me to tell them that life gets better. That I love them. That I am proud of them. My job is not over, it has changed but it is far from over.