Sometimes when I’m lying in bed in the morning, I picture my door opening and a little one barreling towards me, leaping onto my lap. She’s in her footed PJs, hair still a mess from her dreams.
These visions are oh-so-quiet. I never, ever speak them out loud.
I want this child. Whether I make her, find her, or go get her—I want her to be mine.
I want to rock my child to sleep. To carry her to bed. To kiss the top of her head. To answer every single question she might have. To laugh as she laughs. To laze in the sun together. To explain that the sky isn’t just blue. It’s many different colors, but we just see more of that beautiful blue.
I want to read my child her favorite book until the cover falls off, then teach her to read it. I want to tell her that she can throw a temper tantrum at 6 or 16 or 26, and that I’m not going anywhere.
I want to show her how going to the grocery store can be an adventure. That it’s not about getting it over with, but about moving through it. Leaning into it.
I want to drop her off at preschool and wait in my car every second we’re apart, worrying about each move she makes. I want to tell her to go out into the world while still finding home in my arms. I want to email her first teacher so often that he or she asks me to politely step off. And then respond that respectfully, I will not. I never will.
I want to teach my child about her beautiful body, whatever it looks like.
I want to watch as she becomes the person she was meant to be.
But most importantly, I want to be with my child so that she never feels alone.
But I won’t do any of this.
I think about the possibility of my child ever feeling about herself the same way I feel about myself, and I become light-headed. After all, she’d be half-me, and what if that half carried my diseases? What if the personality she’s born with is like mine—anxious caretaker with depression and immense insecurity?
It’s true that a lot of the influence on children is environmental, too. That scares me even more. They say the unspoken messages passed on to our children, modeled through our behavior, are sometimes the most powerful forces.
How am I to avoid infecting my innocent child if I myself feel shame? She’d watch me cringe when I see myself in the mirror and learn to cringe at her own reflection. She’d accidentally witness my food fears, even though I’d try my best to hide it. What if she started to believe eating is something to fear?
I’d try to hide my sadness from her innocence. But one night she’d have a bad dream, come knock on my bathroom door when I’m crying, and start to believe that’s the only safe way to be sad—alone.
So that quiet vision I sometimes get—the one where my child tucks herself against me—can’t happen. I won’t subject another human, especially a tiny one, to that level of pain.
But I’ll keep watching for that little one, until the day I might just feel whole enough to make her mine.