My mother is visiting. We love her and wish she lived closer than Idaho and we call her Nanny. Although my mother-in-law graciously offers her a lovely bedroom suite in her home just a few miles away, Nanny prefers to sleep in the heart of the jungle, waking to the often pre-dawn calls of the natives. So every night we unroll the air mattress in the living room. It’s one of those unexpectedly comfortable ones from Costco.”Will she bring her bed with her?” asked Mbot with glee, when I announced she’d be coming. Both bots love the bed, which blows itself up in a satisfyingly noisy show of technology, and Mbot especially has always liked anything soft, fluffy, poofy or otherwise tactiley inviting. He would wear the down comforter if it fit.
Yesterday morning I came out of the bedroom to find that Mbot had already awoken and joined Nanny beneath the comforter to enjoy a combination of his three favorite things, the Nanny-air mattress-comforter combo. As I opened the bedroom door, I heard his high, sing-a-song voice; he was speaking with great animation. He turned his head when he heard me, saw me, stopped talking, ducked his head. I backed into the bedroom and tried to pretend I hadn’t appeared, wanting him to re-find that Mbot he had been the moment before his mother had stepped into the room.
I saw profoundly that at forty months, he is already a certain person in my presence, and another in my absence. There is awareness of the expectations of others and established patterns of behavior in various environments. I was suddenly aware of our relationship in a way I hadn’t been. Of how we shape each other without even meaning to. Of how both children and adults, no matter how seemingly rebellious, try to conform to a code of expected behavior. Of how powerful those expectations can be, the third person in the room. I was struck by how we can either stifle or feed one another, without even knowing it.
Which did you do today?