Sweet Lilo is ten years old today. Yes, it was a DECADE ago that I became a mother. I remember looking down at the skinny, black-haired, prune-faced, jug-eared BEAUTIFUL babe I had recently pushed out of my very own hoo-ha and praying, “Oh dear God, this is the most important thing I have ever done; help me be worthy of this child”.
As much as I loved my husband, as much as I loved my parents and siblings and friends and godchildren, everything paled in comparison to the intense and fierce love I felt for the small infant sleeping in my arms. Some people go all gooey when the maternal hormones hit them (some people have post-partum depression and cannot bond and SHOULD NOT feel bad about it because it isn’t their fault) but I went savage. Seriously, I just waiting for a bear to try to attack so I could rip its head off with my bare hands (no pun intended) and wear its hide as a warning to other bears do not fokk with my baby. I spent considerable time hunched over Lilo snarling, lest someone or something hurt the precious.
Rational I was not.
I cannot say that has entirely abated either. I am still, inside where it doesn’t show, snarling. I want to wrap Lilo in bubble-wrap and protect her from life. Life can be unfair and cruel and I will not stand for that shit when it comes to my baby. I want to be the most obsessive hover-smother-mother to ever helicopter parent. But I cannot. Because that would not be what was best for Lilo. So I tremble and open my hands and watch her test her wings with a quaking heart.
It doesn’t help that Lilo is so incredibly, astoundingly vulnerable. She has none of the protective socio-emotional boundaries that most children are instinctively developing at this age. She strides through the world with her arms open and every bit of her heart on display for the masses. Most treasure that about her. Her godmother — who is a former elementary teacher — adores her in part because there is NO artifice and almost never even an attempt at manipulation. However, some wretched few – at least one bully in her class — see it as a target and use it to hurt her feelings. I detest those people (even the 9 year old bully who I should have sympathy for because she probably has issues at home yet I still just want to smack her) and for some stupid reason it is illegal for me to beat them like a piñata.
I should have more faith in Lilo’s ability to defend herself. After all, I know she defends others. There was a fellow Aspy – a 3rd grader — on her school bus who was being picked on by a 5th grader and Lilo, even though the bully was an admired older student, faced her down and demanded she leave the 3rd grader alone. Lilo told me, “I knew it was up to me to speak up, mom. Not stopping bad things is as bad as doing bad things.” Her jaw was firm and her upper lip was stiff and her spine was straight and I could have melted and died from pride in my child. Nonetheless, I would still shield her from any ugly aspects of existence that I could.
She feels things so deeply. She cares so much. When she found out some children don’t have enough to eat she wept like her heart would break. When she found out that babies can be hurt – even killed – in war she sobbed in despair. When she found out about the poaching of elephants and rhinos she was ready to tear her hair out in rage at the stupidity of poachers, until I explained that they were trying to feed their kids and the real asshats in that loop were those who PURCHASED ivory or rhino horn and then she was livid at them instead. Each times she discovers some new atrocity that occurs because of human action or inaction she demands to know WHY people aren’t doing something to make that shit STOP. She wants to know what she, personally, can DO to make that shit stop.
I am terrified she is going to be one of those brave aid-workers who risks death to try to make the world a better place and to ease suffering. I cannot want her to do that. I could not bear her loss. It is selfish, but I do not care. I would sell the entire human race down the river to keep my children safe. My humanitarianism – my humanity – stops when it come to my children.
She still doesn’t know most of the world’s evils because we do not tell her about them. She will eventually hear or read about them, but that is a future I will postpone as long as possible. For now, I shall let her have the bliss of ignorance. Today, we are taking her out to dinner and making a big fuss over her birthday and let her innocent heart feel nothing more complex that the indecision of what she wants for dessert.
Happy Birthday, Lilo! Mommy loves you so much!