Six hands, six feet

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On Friday morning, I drove my children to school. S, being a preschooler, requires a chauffeur; N usually rides the bus, but our schedules were complicated by some early-morning commitments, so I delivered both children to their classrooms. S went bravely to his seat at the tiny table alongside the other little people with neither tears nor a succession of strangulating hugs. In the maternelle wing, N was embraced so heartily by her teacher’s assistant that her feet left the ground. I love that the staff aren’t afraid to show affection. Is it because they’re francophone? Whatever the reason, it helps to know that the children in their charge are genuinely cared for.

N’s teacher offered her congratulations on the baby-to-be. I’m starting to look as though I’ve swallowed a volleyball, especially in my winter coat, which is becoming more difficult to zip. At my weightlifting class later in the morning, an older man asked me shyly when I’m due. “Is this your first?” It’s not the first time I’ve been asked – I’m small, apart from the volleyball, and my hair, though increasingly salted with white, is still mostly dark. I always laugh, confessing that it’s my third. It’s almost unbelievable to me, too.

It took me ages to decide. Two children is a comfortable number of children to have. There is a certain peace in symmetry. I was pleased to think that my all-done twenties were my decade of acquiring degrees and newborns, though not at the same time, and all that was behind me. But every month last summer I watched the moon sail west and wondered if I was really done, and the autumn’s answer to the question was no. It is not rational. I am going to miss my quiet days alone. I have projects that I fear will lose what little momentum they have, and never be finished. Possibly most frustrating, my re-entry into the world of paid work will be delayed that much longer. I probably romanticize it, but it’s important to me to be reminded that I am capable of it. All this will have to wait a little longer.

It’s such a gamble: leaping, and hoping the ground will accept us with gentleness. But I am banking on the untempered gratitude of my future self. “if my husband had wanted another, I would have gone for it,” said our friend P, mother of two, over dinner in the big city last weekend. “I wish I’d been able to have more,” admitted the man at the gym as we dismantled our barbells, “but I only have one.” When it comes to love, we never want less of it, and this is the soft landing, this is the net.

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