I just had the family over for Thanksgiving. It was my son’s 35th birthday and we got to see my daughter’s two oldest girls play high school basketball! I’m thinking this probably makes me old, even though it seems like yesterday that I was a young mother. Now, I’m a grandma with grand kids who love to hear stories about their parents when they were little. When I tell these stories the grandchildren’s faces light up with wonder! I’m thinking it’s hard for them to think of their parents as little and it’s hard for me to think of them as not!
The whole nature/nurture thing fascinates me because I’m sure I saw the seeds of my daughter’s current personality when she was only two. She was an adorable little girl with blonde hair we kept in pig tails, big blue eyes and dimples. She was very verbal and full of imagination with a dramatic flare. Often, she would send herself to her room to punish US! Sitting on her bed, she’d call out to let us know where she was and why, ” I sitting on my bed, I mad at you!” We of course would act very remorseful for whatever slight we were guilty. Her imagination was extra-ordinary! Her ability to remember and carry out a theme was fascinating. These were long and detailed imaginings. My favorite is her response to my pregnancy.
Her response was to tell everyone that she had “a baby in her belly” too! Obviously astute at observation, she had the lingo and condition down-pat. She would stop during her play, place her hand on her belly and say,” my baby in my belly just kicked me” then move on to continue whatever had caught her attention. She also appeared to understand the advantages of pregnancy because she couldn’t pick up her toys or eat certain foods because, “the baby in my belly make me sick”. She’d then gag as if on the verge of morning sickness. She would request we stand her on the dresser so she could lift her shirt and look into the mirror to examine her advancing pregnancy. “The baby in my belly is getting bigger”, she would observe. The cheeky little monkey was three! She was committed to her belief she was pregnant and her ability to embellish her story was always simmering just below the surface awaiting opportunity. One particular opportunity stands out in my memory.
My husband had a summer job working with high school students in the Youth Conservation Corp. He supervised students while they fixed trails, weeded and did general conservation work at local water conservation parks. We camped at the parks. For the most part, I was okay sleeping in a tent while pregnant, but a time came when I was just too sore! My mother-in-law had a small apartment nearby, so I decided to go visit and maybe soak in her tub for a bit.
My mother-in-law is a lovely woman who has struggled with mental illness over the years. We have learned that there are certain subjects to avoid when talking to her. If you didn’t mention religion, sex or her ex-husband, you had a pretty good chance of making it through a visit without any drama. Assured that my three year old daughter would not be bringing up any of these topics, I went to soak in the tub. With an ear to the conversation in the next room, I luxuriated in a bubbly warm tub. Always curious, my daughter was asking a lot of “why” questions. “What’s that?”, a lamp was the response. “Why?”, she would ask. Innocent childish questions, except…for one….it was innocent alright, but I worried how my mother-in-law would respond when my daughter asked what her belly-button was for. Hearing the question, I raised myself out of the tub in readiness to rescue my daughter from the drama her “sex” question might raise. To my surprise and relief, I heard my mother-in-law patiently explain that that is where babies are fed when they are in their mommies’ belly. With a sigh of relief, I finished my bath.
What I saw when I left the bathroom was a parental moment not easily forgotten. There my daughter sat with her shirt up grinding a piece of lettuce into her belly button.
I had to ask.
“What are you doing honey?” She looked up and with all the seriousness a three year old could muster said, “I’m feeding my baby”.