This morning, while Henry was in the bath, we played Bodies.
Where are Mummy’s eyes? And where are Henry’s eyes? What about Henry’s feet? And where are Mummy’s feet?
He gets mixed up a lot. Is this my nose or his? His knee or my knee? Often, he points to me when he means himself. I suppose, entangled as we always are, it’s hard to tell the difference. He’s not much for cuddling – too much to do – but we live our days in a web of contact: between every activity, he runs back to grin in my face, and pats me to check I’m still solid. He doesn’t see any reason why he can’t do all of the things I do, or why I shouldn’t be carrying him while I do them. We are the same, after all. He strokes his own face while I put on my make up in the mornings, and fiddles busily at the worktop in the kitchen while I clean. I carry him home in my arms when he’s run out of puff. When he’s tired, he starts pinching my sleeve between his fingers, like I’m the comfort blanket. I suppose I was, once.
But this is an odd phase, because most days now he’s infuriated by my closeness. He doesn’t want to open his mouth for every spoon I point at him, or follow always where my hand pulls. He has his own tumbleweed path to find, and often I’m in the way. This business of wanting, of having wants and making them happen, is a heady experience. Before now he hardly realised that it was possible to go left when I said right. He can’t get enough of it. There’s a reason I’m reading three toddler tantrum books this month. For the first time, our ties are beginning to chafe.
It makes me smile – when I’m not banging my head against the wall – because this independence that he wants and doesn’t want will grow until it takes him right out of my door, to his own loves and adventures. I will send him out to be his own person and make decisions he can be proud of. He’ll visit me on Sunday afternoons and tell me about his job, his girlfriend and his electricity bills. He’ll have to find goodness and resolve for himself, and there is so much to find. I hope he will make something really fine.
But oh, please, not yet. Give me time. Give me a few years of comfort-blanket rocking and chubby arms around my neck. Give me a few more years where he gets confused whose nose is whose, where we sit quiet together so I can hear his heartbeat and he can hear mine. We go back a long way, me and this boy, to the very beginnings. Just for now, I want to keep carrying him home.