A couple days ago, Tulsi pulled a piece of paper and a few new markers out of her “Christmas Calendar” we made together (more on this soon), and the note read, “You are an artist. Your art makes people smile. Make a picture for Nama and Tapas and mail it to them.” She was SUPER excited and wanted to get right to work just moments after climbing out of our cozy bed. She stared at the paper and said, “Me don’t know what to draw,” and I suggested, “You could draw a picture from the time you were with them when I went to New York City.”
Tulsi stayed with my parents for a whoppin’ 52 hours while I went to NYC for the children’s book art show, etc., and I can’t tell you how much my heart and head ran around with this decision before I made it (supported by Patrick and my parents). Some of you might not think a couple of days is a big deal, but it was huge for me. And for Tulsi. We had not spent more than 5 hours apart since the first day of her life, when we’d been separated seconds after her traumatic birth. So it was not an easy decision. Would she feel secure that I would come back? How would she sleep? Would she be distant from me after? And of course, I worried about something happening to either one of us. I know it might sound silly to some mothers who have already grown through the early years, but as a mother, I know your whole heart and being are in every present moment, and you feel each phase fully. It is “everything” in that moment. I knew ultimately she’d be ok, but of course I still questioned if it was necessary. And when some friends quickly responded, “It’s fine — growing pains are good for her,” I cringed and hesitated even more. I mean, she’s only 2 1/2. I didn’t want to force growing pains — or push her to grow up faster than she needs to. But the more I felt into it, I knew I needed to go to NYC for me, and well, it’s a big step for a mama to ‘take time’ for herself. It’s always easy to put that aside for later.
And so I went. And she stayed. And she wailed when I left (but for a mere 30 seconds my mom said), and I cried in line at the airport, too. In an instant, I was on my own, and it was odd. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. Or how to walk. There was an open space. And even though Tulsi was on my mind a lot, I breathed deep and appreciated my mind and back relaxing. I had lunch at a sidewalk cafe with an old friend and a sweet dinner with two mama-friends, relating in that mama-to-mama way, with a glass of wine. It felt slightly like a forced vacation (albeit work), but I was happy I went. Tulsi learned to walk like a penguin, that monkeys like hammocks, too, and she learned all about baseball.
When it came to night, I didn’t sleep much at all. My mom said Tulsi didn’t sleep well either and that she rocked her a lot of the night. I loved that my mom said she didn’t mind at all, because she knew it helped Tulsi feel secure, and I immediately wondered if my mom misses those rocking-her-babies days, like I know I will miss someday.
As I watched Tulsi draw Nama and her, and describe all the details, I knew how important those 52 hours were, for her, too: “This is Nama holding me like a baby, rocking me. Her arms stretched out. She has boobies. I have nipples. She has a belly button. I have a belly button.” She drew both their eyes wide open and said they “were looking at each other”. And then she colored purple over her own face and said, “Me close my eyes and sleep with Nama. She hold me like a baby.”
What a beautiful moment, a gift, that she will always carry with her, that came from those 52 hours, and my own letting go. I know it has strengthened their connection, too. All 3 of them. As for Tapas (my dad), she drew the photo below and said, “Tapas is funny.” :) Like my note to Tulsi, I’m sure her pictures will make my parents happy.