My youngest is a handful. Being the baby of five, she is loud, opinionated, sure of herself. She is a ball of energy and mischief. Her universe revolves around her. Her siblings dote on her, her father adores her, her mother delights in her. But this spunky child can be unruly, tough as nails, stuck in her ways and intense, which is particularly challenging when parental oversight is needed. She can scream, run away, flop, resist, and generally disagree with such simple and sensible things, like being buckled into a car seat, putting on pajamas, or not placing a plastic bag over her head.
It has been suggested to me to view her behavior as expressing a need for attention, control. If I manage to meet her desire to be heard and seen in a bustling household, her behaviors will lessen. It seems like an insurmountable task when I barely have time to breathe, let alone make “special time” for one child. I just want to start my day in peace and quiet; spend those few precious minutes watching the sunrise, sipping a cup of coffee, enjoying the calm before the inevitable escalation of sound. I like to escape to the deck, but the youngest is an early riser, trailing after me, plopping in my lap, demanding attention.
One of my earliest childhood memories is a small fragment—a snapshot really. I am very little, maybe two or three, possibly even younger. I am on the balcony of our apartment, placed on the tiled ledge. I am facing out, with an adult holding me from the back. I am looking into the world, watching the sky, seeing the pink sunrise framed by the balcony and the trees.
It is a bizarre memory. I have a pretty strong fear of heights, but in the remembrance, I feel very serene. I was a precious first child, doted on by cautious parents and grandparents. When I question my mother about this memory, she categorically states that it is impossible; no adult would endanger my life like that, placing a small child on a high balcony ledge. I am left with a snippet of an image and a feeling of calm.
As it becomes fall, sunrise is getting later and later. When I arise in the morning and start my coffee, the outside world is still dark, but my youngest is up, ready to start her day. I make myself a cup and head out to the porch, with bare little feet trailing behind me. I sit down in the darkness, with a small body promptly snuggling into my lap, mindful to keep my coffee out of her way. She is chattering on. She wants my latte foam. I dip my finger in and give her a lick. She likes it and asks for more. I keep on running my finger around the sides of the mug, getting more of the milk.
I start talking about the impending sunrise. My daughter asks me to hold her up so she can see the sky, framed by the tall conifers. I put my cup down and boost her onto the ledge. The sky is being kissed by blue and pink streaks. “Purplish, Mommy! A little bit purplish,” she adds, and quiets down. I am holding her, and she reaches her hand behind my neck, holding on and hugging me. We are both silent, watching the sky lighten up. She is content and secure. I am calm and filled with peace.
Is it possible to have a glimpse of the future, of a moment that did not happen yet? Is it possible to see the world through your child’s eyes before the child is even born? Perhaps my memory is of the moment that I so badly needed in my own childhood that I presupposed it, wanting to see the outside and delight in it, while being held securely by a loving grown-up.
I will never know. After this lovely morning, I am content not knowing.