Everyone says about their kids, “I didn’t know I could love someone this much.” I expected to feel that way, too, and I did the moment I looked into Ruby’s eyes on the day she was born.

But what I didn’t expect was to say, 14 months later, “I didn’t know someone could love me this much.” Somehow, in all that time I longed for a child to love, even in all this time I’ve had one, it didn’t occur to me that I would be the center of her universe, too.

Even during our 10 months of breastfeeding, when Ruby got Mama-clingy, I’d wryly say, “She wants the lunch truck again.” Somehow I mostly convinced myself (in part to spare others’ feelings, I think) that Ruby only wanted to be with me because I was her primary source of food. Certainly, that was a factor, especially when she was very young.

But now that she’s almost 15 months old, she’s gotten very adept at communicating her wants and needs, and I’ve realized that I am often what she wants and needs. Not what I have to give her – food, book-reading, pressing the button on the ball popper – just me. My attention, my affection.

Nothing pleases her more than if I sit on the couch instead of at my desk. She’ll climb up beside me, preferably in the little nook between me and the end of the couch, and just sit happily there, petting my arm. I’ve figured out that she only starts acting naughty – pressing the buttons on the DVR, pulling out my work papers – if she wants me to hold her and talk to her a little while. When we’re at the grocery store, she’ll only ride in the cart if I stay directly in front of her at all times, preferably singing “Victor Vito.”

If we’re with family and people reach for her, she holds on tight to me like a monkey (at least until she warms up). If Daddy tries to get her to follow him to the kitchen, she’ll hover in the doorway to the living room, looking back at me, until I get up to come with them. If D is holding her, she’ll cry and wriggle toward me every time I come near (especially if she’s getting tired). At bedtime, she again clings to me like a monkey and won’t even so much as let Daddy kiss her goodnight because she’s afraid he’ll take her from me. She wants me to be the one to put her to bed, and I finally gave in and took over doing it most nights, because when D tried, it took forever and lots of screaming. Then, if she wakes up in the night, it does no good for D to go in to soothe her; only Mama will do.

This is not to say she doesn’t love other people, because she does. She adores her daddy (clings to him plenty, too, and cries if he tries to put her back down too soon after he gets home from work), and loves her grandparents, Aunt Kelly, and all her other aunts, uncles and cousins. She smiles at strangers, too, and wanders up to random girls at Barnes and Noble to look at their toenail polish.

And sometimes she couldn’t care less about me, like when I drop her off to stay with my parents. Every time, she ignores my goodbyes because Pop is holding her and she wants him to take her outside. (In fact, “outside” trumps Mama nearly every time.)

Most of the time, though, it’s utterly clear I’m numero uno. And there’s a lot of responsibility at the top. After a long day of just me and Ruby, I’m ready to hand her off to Daddy for a while, but she still brings me books to read or tries to climb in my lap while I’m trying to get some work done. Even if I sometimes get a little tired of her touching me, she never seems the least bit tired of me touching her.

Still, I don’t mind too much always being the go-to parent. I’m acutely aware this Mama’s girl behavior may be a phase, and even if it isn’t, it will likely end with a bang at puberty.

Either way, it’s fleeting, and like all fleeting things, so very precious. When I say, “Mama loves you, Punky. Do you love Mama?” she lays her head down on my shoulder and squeezes me with both arms. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

posted by K | filed under Family, Ruby | 5 Comments

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