Marc is growing up fast. He is a happy child and spreads that happiness around him. I can’t stop smiling when I look at him.
My parents are coming for a visit. They will stay with us foe a week. I have planned a family outing for the three of us plus the two sets of grandparents. Now that we have a family van (UGH! I still can’t get used to the idea), we can all fit in it and travel comfortably. Our destination: The Gardens.
Just after breakfast, we all settle in the van and start the one-hour journey to our destination. I take the front seat and place Marc in his car seat on the backbench between one set of grandparents while the second set occupies the rear bench. Marc is well entertained. All his demands are instantly executed. A very attentive audience surrounds him. I should be able to relax and enjoy the ride and the beautiful scenery, even close my eyes and take a nap. But I feel strangely uneasy. I keep glancing back. I know that Marc is perfectly happy. I can hear his laughter. He is charming his grandparents. They of course are delighted to have his attention all to themselves and revel in it.
I feel left out, on edge, unhappy. At this moment he doesn’t need me. Sam reaches across, holds my hand and squeezes it. I look up at him. He smiles and nods.
It is gorgeous end of summer day. The temperature is warm and a light breeze carries the fragrance of the summer blooms. We stroll in the gardens. Marc has consented for now to sit in the stroller. He usually tolerates it for only a few minutes and then complains and fidgets until I get him out of it and carry him around perched on my hip. Today though, he looks quite content, looking curiously around and enjoying the balmy air and the beauty of his surroundings. The peace and quiet of the place has a calming effect on all of us. The mood is friendly and congenial.
I had made reservations to have lunch at the restaurant on the grounds. The vegetables served are organically grown in the garden. I am uneasy. Marc is not known for his patience and in a restaurant most of his food and drink end up on the floor. It is with trepidation that I enter the white, airy restaurant. We sit around a round table. Marc is perched on a high chair, a set of grandparents on each side. I am seated farthest away from him. Not a good idea! He is going to make a mess and I will have to go back and forth between my seat and his. For now he is happily munching on the cheerios I placed on the little tray in front of him. Let’s see how long that will last!
We order our food and I sit back and try to relax. I take a deep breath and for the first time since Marc’s birth, I find myself observing him rather than constantly taking care of him. My mother is sitting on his right and she is trying to feed him. She picks up a cheerios and tries to put it in his mouth. He shakes his head and laughs. She insists by placing the cheerios next to his lips. He closes his mouth and pushes her hand away. She gives up and turns to the side. Marc leans over and touches her hand to get her attention back and smiles mischievously. I watch his antics, shake my head and think, “what a charmer!”
My mother picks up the cheerios and tries again. This time she turns it into a game.
“Look, Marc,” she says, “this is a plane and it is going to land in your mouth”. She holds the cheerios up in the air and making an engine sound, brings it close to his mouth. Marc waits for it to be near then at the last minute turns his head.
“Ok!” says my mom. This time she holds the cheerios near his arm. “Look at the cheerios going up your arm; it wants to go into your mouth. Quick open your mouth before it runs away.” Marc follows my mom’s hand going up his arm. He reaches out, grabs the cheerios and places it near my mom’s lips; quite a reversal of roles. He is now feeding her. My mom is of course delighted. All through lunch he finds new ways to evade her attempts. Then suddenly grabs a handful of cheerios and shoves them in his mouth, munching noisily.
He turns his attention to his other neighbor, my mother-in-law. There, the interaction is very different. She doesn’t try to play with him. She simply looks at him with an expression full of love. She reaches out, touches his hand and murmurs “sweetheart”. Sensing the intensity of her feelings, Marc looks at her solemnly for a few seconds, then his whole face lights up with a seraphic smile. He bends his head toward her in a gesture that says “I love you Nana”.
Lunch is almost done. We are slowly sipping coffee and I haven’t left my seat once. Hmmm….interesting. I am conflicted. I don’t know if I should be happy that I was able to eat my food without interruption or sad because Marc did not need me for the last hour.
After lunch we decide to stroll in the rose garden one more time. Once outside Marc refuses to sit in the stroller and insists on being carried. I grab at the opportunity to hold him in my arms. He snuggles against my shoulder. We walk I silence for a while. My father and my father in law find an empty bench under a weeping willow and decide to sit and continue their conversation. Attracted by their deep voices, Marc wants to join them. He reaches out with his arms, strains toward them and says, “Gagaga….gagag.” My father looks up and notices Marc’s outstretched arms.
“Sofie, bring him to me.” He says.
I hand Marc over and walk a little further away to observe them. My dad puts Marc on his knee and he continues his conversation with my father-in-law. They are talking about history. They are both history buffs so the conversation is lively and interesting. Marc sits quietly for a while just listening to their voices and looking at one first and then the other, depending on who is talking at the time. After a while, he leans forward and taps my father on his chest and says, “gaggag…. Gagag”.
My father looks down at him and continues his conversation without interruption. The picture they make together is amazing; my father talking of European history (about some scandal that happened during the Regency period) addressing his words to both Marc and my father-in-law, Marc looking up intelligently at his grandfather, an integral part of the group.
Sam joins me and I discretely point out to him the trio engaged in this lively conversation; three men so different form each other but at the same time so close, linked by an indestructible bond. Sam smiles and we listen to the group, my father still looking at Marc and talking about his favorite subject, my father-in-law holding Marc’s hand and participating in the conversation.
Soon it is time to go. We all start walking toward the car. It is my father-in-law’s turn to carry Marc for the short distance. Marc is in a playful mood. He has had enough of history lessons for one day. He is teasing his grandfather, pulling his hair, trying to poke him in the eye with his little finger. His attempts are foiled and my father-in-law laughingly evades all of Marc’s attacks. We get to the van and I strap Marc in his car seat. Soon, we are rolling back home. We are all pleasantly tired and the ride back is quiet. Marc falls asleep and I look back and see everyone nodding his or her head sleepily.
This has been an interesting day. My feelings are so ambivalent. On one hand, I am happy that Marc was surrounded by his grandparents and enjoyed their presence. On the other, I am upset that he did not need me nor required my presence for most of the day. I cannot contemplate the idea that I am not as indispensable to him as he is to me. I am aware of the fact that for his own growth and development, he needs to be with his extended family. I know that he enjoys being with them.
All these thoughts are churning inside my head. I am so absorbed by my own thoughts that I jump up when Sam reaches for my hand and gently squeezes it. I know he understands my mood and wants to reassure me. His support gives me comfort. I have a lot to think about and I guess I have a lot of growing up to do too.