The thing about being a movie junkie and a relatively self-reflective person is that sometimes a movie I’ve seen a hundred times can all of a sudden come to life with a previously undetected and all of a sudden vitally important life lesson. Those kinds of lessons aren’t usually at the hands of the grand and dignified like Gregory Peck or Sir Alec Guinness, because the lessons that Atticus Finch and Obi-Wan Kenobi have to teach are pretty on-the-nose. No, I usually uncover these hidden gems under the most embarrassing of rocks. Like, Renee Zellweger embarrassing. Consider the following: The scene in Jerry Maguire when Dorothy is confessing her too-soon-but-I-can’t-help-it love for Jerry. She boldly and excitedly proclaims, “I love him for the man he wants to be and I LOVE him for the man he almost is!” Her proclamation always bewildered me. How can she love a man she doesn’t understand? How can she be so sure that she loves him when she’s also so sure that he doesn’t even know who he is himself? That rock-solid certainty in the face of nebulous uncertainty never made sense to me. That is, of course, until I became a mother.
Let me back up for a minute. In the three weeks since I last wrote a post, so much has happened to and with my Boyo that time stretches and dilates, taking up more room in my memory than it really took. He experienced his first trip on an airplane (and did marvelously, miraculously, magnificently well!) He got his first stomach bug (and puked profoundly, proficiently, and pretty much everywhere!) He sprouted five new teeth, he started eating finger foods, he threw crawling into high-gear, and he discovered the magical satisfaction that can only be found in a crash-clink-clatter of a set of metal measuring spoons. Big doings. He also just came through one of the most challenging of his “Wonder Weeks.”
I’m not the kind of person who finds comfort in doing a great deal of research. Having every option in the world only makes me feel more adrift. I’m much better off taking a simple piece of advice from a trusted source and seeing if it fits my needs, then adjusting from there, deciding as I go what works and what doesn’t. For this reason, I don’t read a lot of parenting advice books or articles. I find a resource that has been recommended by someone I trust, (or that just resonates with me for whatever reason) I give it a try, and if it works, I use it as a reference until it stops working for us. Well, The Wonder Weeks might as well be called, “Keeping Mommy Sane: A Guide to Raising Boyo.” I won’t go into major detail about it except to say that this book helps me understand that my son is going through something major even if I don’t understand exactly what my son is going through. The thing I really love about this book is that it does not offer parenting advice. It simply informs the reading parent of what’s happening in her developing baby’s brain, how that affects his behavior, and some head’s-up signs that her baby is, in fact, in the throes of a developmental leap. What’s to be done from there depends entirely on the integration of whatever parenting style works best for this particular baby (something only his parents can determine.) The Wonder Weeks has helped mitigate my monumental frustration of a thousand unanswered questions (Why is my baby, like, screech-screaming? Why is he all of a sudden not eating or sleeping? Why does my baby act like I’m peeling off his skin when I change his diaper?) by not only providing some of those answers, but also by reminding me that sometimes, there simply aren’t any answers. Sometimes, it’s just life blooming and blossoming and all that is to be done is to take a deep breath and remember that while there are similarities in all babies’ development, all babies are different and the only expert in raising my child is me.
Having scream-fuss-whined himself through a huge developmental leap, my persnickety little man is now cheerful and bubbly, crawling full tilt, pulling up on chairs and ottomans (and entertainment centers no matter how many “No!”s I thunder at him.) He’s fascinated by simple household items (thank you, Whisk and Giant Spoon!) and laughing spontaneously at things I didn’t know were hilarious until I heard his golden laughter trumpeting out of his toothy little mouth.
I do not always understand my boy. I don’t always know what’s making him cry. I can’t always figure out what he wants, even when I can tell that he’s seeking something. I am often surprised by his reaction to both new and familiar circumstances. I am living with a (tiny) man that I do not understand. And I love him. I do. Deeper and more profoundly every day. I love him for the boy he is today, right now, this moment. I love him for the boy and man he’s developing into. I love him for the boy and man I hope he becomes. Watching my son’s nascent personality effloresce is a pleasure and an honor unlike any I have ever known. Each new bit of understanding is another link in the garland of love that we are building together, like the strung-together popcorn on Bob Cratchit’s Christmas tree.
I don’t have to understand Boyo to love him. I only have to understand that I do love him. I only have to remember the Dark Days when I wasn’t sure if I did love him, when I felt like all I could do was tolerate him, when the inky stain of that guilt threatened to ruin the fabric of my sanity. I only have to be grateful in my bones to have realized that love is where I go when patience is gone. Love is where I go when frustration threatens to cloud up and rain chicken shit all over my day. Love is where I go when my yearning for understanding gets sharp and heavy, like a medieval flail. When impatience, frustration, and lack of understanding have me in a free fall, love is the net that will catch me.
So, as embarrassing as it is, I have Renee Zellweger and the 100th or so viewing of Jerry Maguire to thank for helping me unearth a lesson that I hadn’t realized I had learned. Love, that sturdy bulwark in the battleground of parenthood, will stand strong with or without understanding.
Now, if I could just get someone to show me the money…