You have to ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste. – Goethe
Last weekend, my son turned seven. Despite the Corona-madness, we were able to put together an awesome birthday party with fewer friends, and with my closest family. I have been writing a yearly letter for him since he was born, and one day when he is older, I would like him to read them. I like to tell him (and have a reminder) how he has changed over the previous year(s), what he likes, what music he enjoys listening to, what I love about him, and who he enjoys spending his time with. All these little things which, over the years, I am sure we will forget. I am already excited for the next chapter. He is growing up so quickly -some days I am ready for it, others I am not. I couldn’t help but ask myself how am I a mom to a seven-year-old? How is he even seven? It feels unreal that he is that old. I feel I am still in my 20s – smoking Gauloises, reading Camus, Sartre, Milan Kundera, and wearing all black. Wait, actually, not much has changed in that department. I added some layers of grey into my wardrobe though. And I make my own Chia pudding and take B-Vitamins.
Recently, and usually always just before his birthday, I think a lot about the physicality of motherhood. Before having my son I would have been the perfect Corona-fanatic (Covidiot?) who didn’t touch people that often (or at all) during the day. I mean, who does? Most of the day, at work, on the train, in the grocery store, at a movie, I spent without any physical contact. But these days, people avoid each other like the Plague.
When I had my son something changed. I instantly dove headfirst into a daily routine of touch. Cuddling, smooching, bathing, holding his tiny hand, breastfeeding, napping together, and changing diapers. I suddenly touched another person ALL the time and I got to know him so well. I can tell exactly what every part of Joel feels like. His cheeks, warm neck, teeny toes. I know how he breathes slowly when he is sleeping, and how his tongue is hanging out a tiny bit at the corner of his mouth whenever he is concentrating to build or draw something.
And now, (talking and typing in slow motion): But what about the partner I am in a relationship with?
The other day, I had an awesome conversation with a friend, who listened to a podcast by Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity, a book about sex (within marriage and) after having kids. Perel believes that there is a badge of honor among women to not prioritize yourself or your marriage: It is all about the children. Without realizing it, she said, women can end up getting their emotional intimacy and physical satisfaction from their children, instead of their partners, said Perel. They give their babies tons of wonderful affection and then don’t have anything left over for their spouse. The relationship can become a disaster over time.
After reading the book I learned that, even at the end of a long day, the child should get the full attention of the mother, but so should the partner. In other words, languorous hugs and playful kisses for everyone.
Obviously, kissing my son is one of life’s greatest joys, and to me, my son is still my baby and will be my buddy with his huge, genuine heart. I don’t think that feeling will ever change because he is happy, funny, he makes my heart swell, makes me laugh, and challenges me in every way possible. But, at the same time, I realize that parents need that physical affection from each other, too. Not only to be a better parent but a better person and partner.
.Stay happy. Stay sane.