It doesn’t seem possible that I can keep it up much longer, but I still carry my kids.
Okay, granted, with M it’s a bit of a joke. We pride ourselves on being strong, so it’s a challenge when she says, “Mom, carry me,” and latches her arms around my neck. I’ll support her back with one arm while she drapes long legs over the other arm, and then I stand there while we see how long I can keep her aloft. Or I’ll play the old trick from when the kids were little and drop my arm from behind her back quickly, so she’ll fall backwards, gasping, and I’ll catch her before her head smacks. I’m pretty impressed with myself that I can still do it. And just like when she was three years old, it still scares her every time.
With J, every once in a while, I still carry her upstairs. This is ridiculous. For the last year, each time I carry her upstairs, I think, “This is almost impossible and potentially dangerous and probably the last time I’ll ever do this.” In fact, it’s been years since I started a schtick where, when someone would ask to be carried upstairs (usually because they were half-asleep on the living room sofa), I’d answer. “I’ll carry you. . . emotionally.” What this entails is me walking alongside the sleepy child, possibly while holding hands or pressing a palm against someone’s back as propulsion. Which is partly just a joke, of course, but I remember being a little kid and having to go up those stairs all by myself, and I hated it. There’s a wide gap between my three older sisters and me, so it felt like I was always getting sent upstairs to sleep when all the fun was just beginning around the kitchen table. Bedtime meant being exiled, and I’d sneak to the top of the stairs and strain to follow the too-grown-up-for-me conversation. It feels like walking upstairs takes a bit of the sting out of that. So that’s what started me on the “I’ll carry you emotionally.”
Carrying kids is tough, but not carrying them is pretty hard, too. Children growing up and away from us is such a literal metaphor. The idea that my children were once contained entirely within me would be unfathomable if I hadn’t lived through it. And then, once babies are born, they’re still attached in the most literal sense, rooting and grasping or nestling themselves into our folds and spaces. That’s the way it should be with a newborn. I remember when M arrived and was put into the NICU, the forced physical separation made her birth feel more like an amputation, leaving me to press against a plastic box, empty arms and swollen breasts tingling like phantom limbs.
As a new parent, I’d see enormous, elderly children climb up onto their parents’ laps and I would inwardly roll my eyes at the weirdness of it. I always thought Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever was creepy. And actually, I still think that lady’s a stalker, coming in while the kid’s asleep as a teenager. But I’ve come around a bit. A few years ago I posted about cuddling with big kids, and while some of that’s been outgrown, most of it hasn’t. I’m thinking, now, that we might never outgrow it.
The truth is, even as a grown-up, sometimes I’m half-asleep on the couch, and I wish that someone would carry me up to bed. Since nobody can, I have to just suck it up.