I am writing these words a mere few hours after rocking my son to sleep.
This was his second night in a row without my wife nursing him down. Last night, he fell asleep in the car during the ride home from my mom’s house in Baltimore, and we decided to just let him stay asleep and start the weaning process a few days earlier than we’d planned. Tonight I ended his traditional bedtime routine–a bath, followed by story time with Dad–by simply turning out the lights in the room, turning on his go-to-sleep music, and rocking him gently in the dark.
He was bewildered. He asked for his mom, then he asked again more insistently, then he cried for her… and then he seemed to accept that she just wasn’t coming tonight. He didn’t like it, but he trusted that everything was going to be just fine: that I had more than enough love to give him and that he didn’t need any more nourishment. And he fell asleep. I held him for another minute–partially to make sure he fully settled into sleep, but mostly (if I’m honest) because the intimacy of cradling him that way is immensely comforting… and at that moment, I needed the comfort.
You see, earlier in the day, I happened to read a few of what I consider to be intellectually impoverished reviews of my work (despite having vowed, not long ago, never to do so again). Even after the support of a few friends, not to mention my wonderful wife, I spent the whole afternoon feeling melancholy and misunderstood: as if I just didn’t have enough support for my work as a playwright, enough understanding, enough accolades. Not enough of anything.
But there was my son, breathing on my chest. I had convinced him that ours is a world of plenty, that I could give him whatever he needed, that he already had what he needed… and he’d given himself over, utterly and completely, to deep rest. If it was true for him, I realized, then it had to be true for me, too: I did have enough. So I burst into hot, silent, grateful tears.
Parenting, like being a playwright, is difficult and beautiful: a bright fire in which the soul can be transformed and purified. It’s beyond my ability to understand rationally sometimes, so I understand it (when I can) in metaphors and in glimpses and in symbols. I understand it by doing it before it makes sense. It’s the only way I know how.
If you are, like me, a parent and an artist, may these small words give you the comfort that my son gave me.