A few days ago my daughter gave birth to her second child. I gladly traveled a few hundred miles to stay with my 18-month-old grandson while his parents were at the hospital. I don't see him nearly often enough, and it was definitely a nice diversion from the stresses at home.
Lately I've been suffering from severe depression and anxiety. Though they've been long-term members of my psyche, only in recent months have they been keeping me awake at night. Between the frequent nasty comments directed at my husband and me on Facebook (more about that never-ending drama here), the stress of living out of a suitcase for much of the summer, children constantly reminding me of my every real or perceived imperfection, and just the fact that I'm completely exhausted by life, it's hard to quiet the voices in my head long enough to fall asleep.
I took my grandson to meet his new baby sister shortly after her birth. He wasn't as thrilled with her arrival as the rest of us were. At first he simply seemed confused. He had been hearing about this "baby" and "little sister" for what seemed like an eternity (and in reality, half his life), all the while his mama's stomach had been getting bigger and bigger and looked more and more like his favorite toy, a ball. But now Mama was holding this tiny little thing instead of him, and it didn't look at all like a ball. And come to think of it, she'd left him alone with this strange woman who looked only vaguely familiar. What in the world was going on???
What is that tiny creature Mama is holding? Hey, wait! That's my spot! That's my Mama! Yeah, that's right...put her in that little basket and let her cry a while. Oh, no! Why are they giving her back to Mama??? This can't be happening! I'll show her! I'll show them all!!!
My daughter tried to get her son to sit next to her on the bed. He had been betrayed, left alone with a stranger, and he would have no part of this blatant pandering. He turned and ran toward me. I promise you, this has never happened before in the 18 months he's been here. As a matter of fact, he usually runs in the opposite direction.
No doubt, he was mad.
At some point and with enough coaxing, his love for his Mama and his need to be near her got the better of him. He climbed up for a quick hug and a sneak peak at Little Sister. He wasn't impressed. Besides, there were still lessons in loyalty to be taught. He regained his composure and ran back to me. It took all he had, but he managed to avoid climbing into Mama's arms and reclaiming his rightful place. He finally gave her a perfunctory kiss and we headed home for the night.
At bedtime my anxiety got the best of me. My heart was racing. The pounding in my chest was unbearable. I turned on my computer just to take my mind off my body, and then I heard my grandson crying. I waited a few minutes to give him time to calm down and fall asleep, to no avail, then went upstairs to get him. We rocked for a while. He would close his eyes and start to drift off, then quickly glance up at me to be sure I was still there. This had gone on for 15 minutes or so when I realized my breathing had slowed and my heart was no longer trying to escape the confines of my chest. I was calm. And then he was sound asleep.
It seems we both just needed reassurance that we were wanted and loved.