Sunday, May 8, 2016

Thoughts on Mother's Day: Autonomy vs. Privacy

I wrote this two and a half years ago when Kate was about the age Jayne is now (20 months). Reading through it, it struck me how much things have changed and how much they are still the same. 

Happy Mother's Day!

Kate begging to be held or given something. This view is a familiar one to most parents of toddlers.

Kate is currently really into belly buttons. She likes to lift her shirt, put her finger in her navel, and say, "Beh buh!" She also likes finding other people's beh buhs. This generally involves me sitting on the couch and attempting to fight her off but ultimately caving as she wrestles the hem of my shirt up my rib cage. I then sit there while she touches my belly button and says "beh buh! beh buh!" until I acknowledge that I do, indeed, have a belly button. This usually culminates with her stroking the loose skin of my stomach and saying "Sah. Sah." (Soft). Thanks, Kate.

I can't help but think, every time I see her cute little tummy with its sweet little dimple, that she will forever be marked by the time we shared my body. Nothing can erase that--we are both forever changed. And while birth was liberating, in a way, for both of us, and the physical tie that bound us was severed, we were still connected through nursing and feeding and changing and all of the work that goes into caring for an infant. While I loved most of those things most of the time, it was overwhelming to have someone so dependent on me.

As time has gone on, Kate and I have both gained autonomy in the form of her small, bittersweet victories. She gains independence and I regain pieces of myself I'd forgotten I'd lost. We are not two pieces of the same being anymore; she is increasingly becoming her own person, and I am thrilled for us and a bit sad for me that she doesn't need me like she used to. 

Autonomy is great for both of us--it allows us each our own space in which to stretch and grow. I have discovered, though, that autonomy is not the same thing as privacy. I wonder sometimes if privacy is something I will ever experience again. 

From the time Kate could crawl and pull herself up to things, she would make her way over to the shower, wedge her little fingers around the door, slide it open, then stand there and watch me. If I tried closing the door, screams would erupt. The magical bathroom acoustics amplified them exponentially, and I quickly learned to just let her watch. Once she was a little steadier on her feet, she insisted on stepping into the shower herself. Once she got comfortable with that, she would walk to the front of the shower and stand underneath the leaky handle, which meant I had to strip her down and share my shower time with a wet, naked little baby running around me who occasionally fell over backward and hated it when I rinsed her hair.

Thankfully, the shower phase has mostly passed, meaning I get my ten minutes of "me time" back (YES!).

Bathroom breaks, though, are another story. Yes, we leave the bathroom doors open pretty much at all times (except when we have people over; we do have SOME boundaries), and Kate can join us or not, as she pleases (she usually joins us). Closing Kate out generally results in a stressful (and loud) bathroom experience. There are some battles that just aren't worth fighting, and I decided long ago this is one of them. (I'm hoping it will make potty training a breeze. (Ha.))

Kate's new favorite thing is handing me my clothes as I'm getting dressed after I get out of the shower. She knows the word "bra" and sometimes runs around my room holding it to her chest ("ba! ba!").

So while I'm sometimes a little icked out by how open we are in our house with our child, we do what works for us. And I do miss my privacy (sometimes desperately), but I love our growing autonomy.