Monday, February 18, 2008

"I Want MY Mommy!!!!"

It occurs to me that both Keri and I have noted more than once how close the kids are, how they play and fight and love each other like siblings. And it's true, they do think of each other that way. Last year, when Keri and Matty were away for a long weekend and I was spending some Q-time with Declan, he asked me to draw a picture of him with his two sisters, Erika and Hilary.

However, I want to make it perfectly clear that the kids have no confusion where their parents are concerned. Our setup is not at all like a kibbutz I read about when I was in high school, where all the adults were parents to all the kids, and there were no nuclear family units. In fact, it amazes me sometimes how little cred I hold with Declan (Ronan likes me a lot) given that I bet he can't remember a time we didn't live in the same house. And it's not just Declan: every morning, Erika, Hilary and Declan jockey to see whose mom is driving to the bus stop, then preschool. The kids have all been known to refuse help from an aunt or uncle with the hopes that their own mother will tie the shoelace, get the juice, zipper the coat, buckle the carseat.

Hilary has even hurled those four defiant words at Keri, the ones that make you want to stop the car and put the kid out on the curb: "YOU'RE NOT MY MOTHER!"

And I'm sure she won't be the last one to say it.

It amazes me sometimes, how tightly attached the kids are to their own parents, despite the constant presence of so many relatives and caregivers. There certainly have been many days when the twins spent more time with Marina and Oat than they did with me. And I don't think I'm the first mom who has feared off and on, since we hired Marina seven years ago, that the kids would love the nanny more than they do me. But after going through this five times, I can say with absolute certainty that it doesn't happen. Sure, sometimes Gretchen will ask for "Mina," but when I come home after being out all afternoon both babies toddle over to me and throw their arms around my legs and cry, "Mommy!" And the older kids would clearly rather me play with them, read them stories and give them baths than anyone else.

Maybe it shouldn't amaze me. Maybe it's all about who gets up with the kids during the night. From the time they were babies, it was me who nursed them when they were hungry, rocked them when they were restless, and lay down beside them when they were sick or scared.

In other words, I've put in the time.

It doesn't really explain, however, why my kids are so attached to Andy - who is the adult in the house they clearly see the least, especially during the week. When he comes home from work, they all are transported into fits of hysterical devotion. I mean, he does spin them around so high their sneakers practically scrape the ceiling, but is that really enough?

I guess what I'm trying to say is, the logical workings of parental attachment remain a mystery to me. But I can say for certain that it does work - no matter how many wrenches you throw into the system, no matter how many other perfectly nice, perfectly caring adults are around to lure a child's affections. They may be momentarily intrigued, but in the end, they never fall for it.

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