Saturday, April 4, 2009

Project Honesty 2: I Love My Husband

I was trying to fall asleep last night, while the baby (13 months old, but still my baby) was fussing in her crib across the room. And I was trying not to get frustrated with her, so I started thinking about how much I love her--and everyone else.

My darling little girl: I love you purely. Who else would I allow to keep me up all night, every night, because you'd rather suck on me than sleep? Who else has such kissable cheeks, such a tickle-able belly, such sweet curls? When I look at you, I am horrified to think that there was ever a chance you would not be in my life. We were clearly not a complete family until you arrived. You are my daughter, and as the daughter of a mother myself, I know that our relationship will not always be so simple. I do not relish the day when you accuse me of being selfish because I won't allow you to do something, or when I worry that you're making all the same mistakes I made--and that I am making all the same mistakes my own mother made. But I will always love you, no matter what. And when things between us are hard and complicated, I will look back on this time, when I cheered your every word, when I laughed with you as you discovered how to roll a ball across the room, when I swung you up in the air and watched your two little bottom teeth flash as you screamed with delight, and I will know that I love you with a pure love that can never be tainted.

My sweet middle boy: I love you fiercely. I think that is the only way to love you. It is certainly the way you love me. You approach everything in your life with the same no-holds-barred intensity, it floors me. I remember the night we were staying at a hotel, on our way to our vacation. You were refusing to settle down, keeping your brother and the entire family up, and nerves were frayed. Finally Daddy told you, "That's it! If you don't go to bed right now, I'm going to put you in the car, and you're going to have to sleep out there, all alone in the dark, all night." You quietly gathered up your blanket and pacifier and prepared to head out the door. That was the night Daddy called you "Cool Hand Luke" for the first time. I love the way that you stand up for yourself, never compromising for a second. You may get scratched, pushed, even bitten, but you give as good as you get. You are a force of nature, and I admire the hell out of that. But I also love the way that you curl up against me, rest your head on my chest, insist that I snuggle you just so, and remind me that for all your intensity, you are 3 years old. You must have your water from the "big giant cup" (the pitcher), in your orange cup, often insisting on ice. You will agree to put your head on your pillow at nap time, but you insist that you will not be closing your eyes. You drive me to distraction, bringing me to levels of frustration I have never known before. Then, in the same breath, I find myself loving you with a mother bear intensity that almost scares me. We fight to be sure; you push my buttons and my limits. But the ferocity of my love is astounding.

My wonderful firstborn: I love you with my soul. The way I feel about you fills me up from the inside. When I think about how I love you, my heart drops into my stomach for a moment, as though being your mother is some sort of carnival ride I never understood until I was strapped in for good. You are so much like me that it frightens me. You look just like your daddy did at your age, and you have his imagination to be sure. But sometimes I look at you, and I think you're going to turn out just like me, and I get scared and sad. You're so sensitive that you cry at perceived slights, not just the real ones. You regularly complain of throat and stomach pain, when your emotions get to be too much for you. You don't want to ride a bike or jump off the edge of the pool, so afraid of what might happen. And when you do these things, I think: That's me. That's the worst of me, coming out in my son. And I try so hard to encourage you to try, and then I push, and then I see myself turning into my mom. I don't want you to live a life scared of what might happen, and I don't want to hurt you by pushing too hard. But I also want you to have a better life than I have, to be more confident and proud than I am. Because believe me when I say: You have no idea how spectacular you are. I didn't know I could love someone as much as I love you. It consumes me, and I burn up inside of it, then rise again to love you some more. And if I make mistakes, if I push too hard or not hard enough, if I understand you too well or too little, know that it is only because my love wants to wrap you up inside it and guarantee that you will live the best, happiest life there is.

My beautiful husband: I love you unfairly. I know this. I love you intellectually, timidly, fearfully. I admire you. I enjoy you. I live afraid that you will stop loving me. We have three amazing children together, and we both know that we love our kids; we say so all the time. And loving our kids is so much easier than loving each other. They're uncomplicated in their love, they're flesh of our flesh, and they depend upon our love for their very survival. We, on the other hand, have our own agendas, our own complicated desires, our own assumptions about the world and about each other. And without me, I know you would go on living. So what is it that keeps you here? Is it just that I'm a good mother? Is it that staying is easier than leaving? Or is it that you truly, deeply love me? I'm afraid to even ask the questions, so afraid of what it looks like to be asking why my husband stays with me. At the root of our relationship, I know, is our friendship. You are there for me in a way that no one else is. You protect and encourage me. You listen to me and you guide me when I need it. As our children grow, I know they will need us less, and we will have more and more time with the two of us, to remember why we fell in love in the first place. I worry that your love is conditional, that one day you will simply run out of reasons to love me. But though I may not love you with the completeness you deserve, I hope that you will hang on and love me anyway, giving me time to believe that, the same way that our children know there is nothing that would stop my love, you and I really will be in love forever.

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