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Children in Disguise

Yesterday was another one of those days. I've long lost my delusional thoughts regarding the easy life of at-home parenting. Still, yesterday was -- how shall I say it -- more challenging than usual. I used to wonder why my mom had severe headaches so frequently. Now I know.

My preschool twins were fighting, screaming, and tearing around the house. My youngest was sick with big droops oozing from his little baby nostrils. He was miserable and would cry pitifully whenever I set him down. And I had developed a dull throb in my temples and an ache in my heart.

Amid this chaotic backdrop the television brought news of kids shooting kids at school. Schuyler ran past me as I watched the TV in disbelief. He slipped and fell, hitting his head on the wall. As he began to wail I picked him up and rocked him back and forth, but his crying just increased. The baby started shrieking from his bouncy chair. And I began to cry some too as the TV announcer spoke "...four girls dead and a teacher..."

Dinner was a nightmare, nutritionally and otherwise. Waffles coated with peanut butter were smeared on booster chairs. Potato chip crumbs were strewn everywhere. Conversation consisted of "You are stoopid!" and "Quit looking at me!" In parental frustration, I left the table to go fix something for the baby.

My emotions got the better of me again as I mixed baby cereal and formula. I was mad at my wife for once again being out of town. "She just doesn't know what I go through every day." I sniffled and stirred. As I fed the baby, other thoughts rushed through my head: ...memories of my single life ... my at-home dadness ... kids killing kids ... I wondered how I was going to teach my own kids about life when I couldn't even understand it myself.

Taking advantage of my revery, the baby grabbed the spoon and flung Blueberry Buckel onto the kitchen floor. "Rats," I said, (or some such utterance), and then out of the corner of my eye I saw it. Kier was standing on his chair reaching for the gallon of milk I had left on the table. "I want some more milk, PLEASE!" he said laughing. The plastic container split as it slipped from Kier's hand and hit the floor.

"Damn it, Kieran Patrick!"

"I didn't MEAN to do it, daddy!"

I grabbed a roll of paper towels and started to stomp angrily over to the mess. But before I could reach the spill, I slipped on a puddle of Blueberry Buckle and the lights went out...

The next thing I knew was my hand being held ... softly ... gently ... and so lovingly. I couldn't see ... but I knew ... I was once again being held by my mom who had died long ago.

"Mommy," I cried. "Where have you been?"

She didn't say a word but I sensed that I was becoming different somehow. I felt small as she cradled me in her arms once more. I couldn't talk as I again became the baby of my mother's love. Slowly, I opened my eyes and peeked at her shimmering beautiful face smiling down on me. She held me tight and turned me around. I gasped as she held me up and we looked at the beautiful blue and white earth-ball floating beneath our feet. We soared together, my mommy and me, and she took me on a marvelous adventure. We stopped first at my house, and as if to further comfort me, she showed me all my children snuggled in bed with my wife. It was strange being as a baby and watching my own babies sleep. Their peaceful faces glowed as I hovered in lovestruck amazement. My family's shallow breathing and the stillness of the night hushed any of my remaining anxiety. I longed to float down among them for I knew that's where I belonged, but...

In an instant we were somewhere else. My mommy gripped me tight as we both watched in terror as parents grieved the loss of their murdered child. It was beyond understanding. My mommy and I cried too as we watched the shudders of pain rip through the parents' bodies. Through both of our tears I looked at my mommy's eyes and I could tell that she didn't understand this either. She just held me as close as she could and we both cried some more.

And then she took me to another place. We were in a hospital room and again a woman was crying. We listened, my mommy and me, as a doctor explained why the women had miscarried and offered her the advice that she would be able to "try again." It didn't seem to help this woman to know that. She was grieving this loss -- this child -- that she had grown to love even before it was born. This was difficult to watch but we stayed and tried to comprehend a love that could be so strong, a love so strong for a child that would never come to be.

In yet another instant, we were with a husband and wife. They too were crying as a doctor explained that they could not have children. With a silent look I asked my mommy why she was showing me all this. She just smiled and stroked my face. I listened and I felt the hurt in these people as they faced the loss of knowing that they would never love a child of their own. Their lives would not be the same after that day and they seemed overwhelmed. A painful longing for my own children began to grow, but...

My mommy showed me many other things during that journey. We saw parents loving their newborn child. We saw other parents watch their smiling baby take her first steps. And we saw some proud parents loving their child as she married. We even traveled back in time and watched Neanderthal parents cradle a baby in their hairy loving arms!

As we watched those primitive beings express their emotions things began to make sense. I knew what my mommy was trying to tell me. I began to understand that we can't and won't know life's mysteries. I didn't have to worry how to teach my children a philosophy of life or how to explain the horrors that the world sometimes suffers.

My mommy and I were once again floating above the blue and white earth-ball. She smiled, cried and rocked me in her arms. I looked at her and turned my head to see those beautiful blues and whites. The world looked at once so large and so small. I knew deep inside that the love for our children -- that love so strong -- is the only answer we ever really need to know or indeed teach. The pasty white clouds mixed with dark and lighter blues. My head ached and the colors blurred so I closed my eyes.

I heard a baby giggle as I slowly opened my eyes. Blues and pasty whites were all I could see at first. More baby giggles and the blur sharpened. Tristan smiled at me and threw Blueberry Buckel in my face. I must have left the baby dish on his tray before I slipped and fell. I felt big and clumsy as I got up groggily and began to wipe up the mess from the now happy baby. The twins were busy floating potato chip crumbs in the "big milk river."

"Are you done with your nappy, Daddy?" Sky asked.

"Yeah, I guess so." I rubbed my head and felt the bump. I felt awkward in my once again large body.

Some say that childhood is an illusion or creation of modern society. I disagree. We are all children. Some of us are just in grownup disguise. © 2005 - 2012 Hal Levy and the above captioned author.