I was driving with my son, enjoying the fiery September sunset, reflecting on the long exhausting week (not yet ended) when I slid Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” in the CD player. The familiar infant cry began on the first track, “Isn’t She Lovely” — the song that inspired my sister’s name, Aisha. I forgot the sunset and began to think about her and how the song never fails to bring tears to my eyes. There is no more perfect expression of how I see my sister than, “Isn’t she lovely?” She is, inside and out.
I recall seeing her bassinet in my parents’ bedroom. I was afraid to approach and completely unaware that the tiny person within would change the paradigm of my childhood. Becoming a big sister was major. I had to surrender my imaginary friend to allow Aisha space in my life.
In the way that I hold my sister precious, I feel the same about being a mother. I think my son is a lovely person. Becoming a big sister was a huge shift, but the transition to motherhood is even more so.
As the song plays, my son is bobbing his head and trying to snap his fingers. He’s been working on that skill for a year. Still hasn’t quite figured it out. He catches me peeking at him in the rearview mirror and grins.
“I like that music,” he says. He’s very into music these days. His preference seems to be catchy pop songs despite his father’s attempts to indoctrinate him with black metal and hard rock. The kid appears to have the same preference for singing as I do so pop songs easily win.
I agree with him about the music and we sing our way back home. When I pull up to the house and turn the car off, he feigns disappointment. He wants more music and time in the car; but at the mention of a cup of cold milk, he hops out of his carseat and follows me in the house, finally able to climb the front steps without assistance.
He’s changing, and today is one of the days that I’ve closely observed these new pieces of him. Earlier in the day, at the park, he had his first conversation with a friend while they were playing. He’s finally entered the stage of group play.
Tonight he walks into the house and stops to play with a toy in the living room before joining me in the kitchen to get his cup of milk and asking to watch a cartoon. He spends much of the day without the TV but in the evenings, he likes to unwind with his favorite characters (Masha and the Bear or Daniel Tiger).
While he watches his “’toon,” I sneak away and try to watch something on my own. He’s content without me for 15 minutes, then comes to my bedroom and climbs on the bed. He jumps, then jumps on me, and finally reads me a toy catalog that he’s been carrying. He loves catalogs too. If the catalog has a pumpkin in it, he’s sold.
As he’s talking, I again find myself wistful and appreciative of him. He’s made me a better person. To some degree, his father and I can take credit for his sweet personality and intelligence but the gift of sitting on my bed shooting the breeze with my baby monkey can’t be minimized. In two years, he’s become sentient and interactive. He’s a little man with ideas, preferences and thoughts about pumpkins.
When I held him for the first time, after delivery, he was strange and gooey. He knew me with an innate sense and melted to my heart when the nurse laid him against my chest. I remember feeling the same uncertainty and apprehension that I felt seeing my sister’s crib but enjoyed the warmth of his new skin against mine just as I did when I finally touched her tiny hands those many years ago. He’s a natural extension of the lessons my sister taught me about caring, about teaching and giving space to grow.
He’s beginning to exert his independence. My inclination toward being a control freak grows fainter with time. The panic I used to feel when my sister would take risks is much less with the kid. With that said, I’m not ready to send him off to the world, but I do enjoy watching his tiny steps in that direction.