As parents, my husband and I have been nothing if not idiosyncratic. To the outside observer, it probably looks like we chose our stances on the various child- rearing hot-button issues with an eye toward what would ruffle the most feathers. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Neither of us likes to draw attention to ourselves — two star-crossed loners, we were brought together only because he was looking for a coffee shop and happened to knock on the door of my hermit cave of an apartment on Floyd Avenue and ask me for directions. Now we are loners together, if such a thing is possible.
With an eye toward being left alone to parent the way we see fit, we've tried to keep our own counsel about our choices — this column being the exception. We cloth-diapered with plain white rectangles; no bells, whistles or high-end designer heinie covers for our Boy. We changed the subject when anyone brought up vaccinations or circumcision and found excuses to leave the room when Barney came on in mixed company. As The Boy got older, we failed to mention that he was still nursing or that we had never even assembled his crib, preferring to keep him nestled between us. We left the toy guns at home when we visited the liberal friends and the pink flowered pants were not worn when we called on the grandparents.
And yet, for all of our efforts at camouflage, there's one subject on which we completely fail at going unnoticed. I get approached about it by someone, somewhere, at least once a week. Lately, that someone has been The Boy himself, usually after dinner at my folks' place as we're packing up to go home.
"I think I better stay here," he'll say seriously, planting his little feet firmly on the playroom rug and grasping some random toy that is made a thousand times better by not being at our house. Well, that's great, I hear you thinking. What kid doesn't like to stay at Grandma and Grandpa's house? And I am sure you are right, that he'd have a wonderful time. But as of this writing, in his whole three years, The Boy has never been out of our sight for an hour, let alone a whole night. Call us hovering, smothering, clingy — don't worry, I've heard them all. And still. Yes, we are those people.
It's not always all three of us; I go to work, my husband goes to the gym, and each of us takes our turns here and there pursuing hobbies, interests and time with friends. But if one of us is out in the world, the other one is holding down the fort with The Boy, and that's the way it's always been. To say that this is a sore subject with my parents would be an understatement, and I know that our child-free friends are perplexed at our standing rain check on grown-up dinners and other events. One for all and all for one, the three of us have been Musketeering along happily for the past three years. But now there is a weak link.
I know we are hurtling toward the inevitable day when The Boy will insist on the solo visit to the grandparents' house.He says he wants to stay now, but realistically he's still close enough to babyhood that I can tell myself — and my parents — that he won't be able to sleep without his mama. That's not going to carry us too much further, though, so I'm trying to broach the subject gently with my husband when it comes up. I use "teachable moments," like the day last week that my work schedule conflicted with his Muay Thai class.
"You know, my parents are right across the Nickel Bridge. You could drop him off on your way to class and he'd only be there an hour."
"Traitor," he said, narrowing his eyes at me suspiciously.
"I'm just sayin'…"
"And I'm just sayin' no."
And that's where I left it … frustrated, but relieved. Because honestly, I'm going to be just as big a nervous wreck as my husband the first time we drive off without him. We may not make it any farther than the corner, but it will be a start. Until that day arrives, however, my days will still start and end blissfully, as they have for three years running, with sleepy kisses from my favorite rugged individualist, curled up safe between his mama and daddy where he belongs.