At turns I feel a truly maternal connection with Ike. Other times he just seems like a hypoallergenic chunk-cheeked mewing cat who lives in our house. He has been smiling a lot these days; gorgeous full-mouthed smiles with a side of deep-dish dimple. He coos and cuckoo-ka-choos and chugs with his little legs when he’s in his infant seat so that the giraffe, turtle, snail, rattle, and owl swing violently from the toy bar above him. I can squat down, tickle his belly or chin with my index finger, and get him to smile at me, following my shape with his eyes as I stand up to move around the kitchen or continue getting ready in the morning. I carry him over my shoulder much more often than I did with Connor. Maybe it’s because Connor liked the front carrier and Ike’s not a huge fan. Maybe it’s because Ike and I don’t have much alone time together when Connor and I did. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling guilty about days when I don’t even hold Ike after 7:30 a.m. between work, making dinner, and trying to soothe a still slightly under the weather Connor (he had a raging fever and chills this weekend) before Z put the Rooster to bed (that’s right, “Ike” has morphed into “The Rooster.” Ike becomes Ikester becomes Ikesteroo becomes Roo becomes The Rooster or Roo Roo. Makes total sense once I explain it, right? Uh, cha).
When the feelings of self-loathing are particularly piqued, I visit babycenter.com to read about all the things I should be doing with my baby that I likely am not. Who has the patience for tummy time? Sounds like a luxury only afforded to the weekend and people who prefer to not purposely make their babies cry in the few hours they have to spend with them (I’m not-so-secretly hoping that Jean is doing tummy time duty for us). Baby should be drinking about 25 oz of milk a day? My little beefcake downs about 30. I have to ask Jean how his day was because his days are mostly spent with her and her daycare crew of kids. I binge and purge on internet advice and loathing, all the while feeling sparks of guilt because I religiously charted Connor’s sleeping, eating, and gastrointestinal habits when I have a moderate handle on Ike’s. Ike will turn out fine, of this I am certain even while I berate myself for giving him ample fodder for mommy issues. It just feels like there are many shades of gray when it comes to fine, and not knowing which hue will be his is nerve wracking.
My attitude toward Connor at this age is completely different from what it was as an infant. For the most part, I try to take an “Eh, he’ll be fine” outlook on his tantrums and fits mainly to keep my own sanity. Lately, though, we have been butting heads – as Z put it, we have a love-hate-love relationship. I love how smart and clever he is. I hate how he tries to hit, ignore, and aggressively smoosh me. I love how sweet he can be when he’s not thrashing around on the floor or my lap like a fish out of water. Love-hate-love. Maybe if I think of our relationship as a love sandwich, I’ll be better able to overlook the, as Connor would put it, “stinky” filling between the two soft, bouyant slices of hugs, nose-wiping, and story-reading. Today was more filling than bread, but those golden, doughy days are always out there, waiting to be savored. With spring just starting, I’m hoping that we just need some sun to warm our buns and build more less-stinky moments.