Turniphead is kicking and squirming almost 24-7 now, causing my stomach to contort in alien-ish ways. Since Stephen and I both strongly resemble our parents in appearance and in habits, I’m assuming that TH will be a chip off the old block as well. Therefore, I can guess with some confidence what these daily punches and jabs communicate. TH, full of inflated self-esteem like his mother, is imagining that while the whole “nine month” gestational period might be fine and necessary for the average developing fetus, six months has been more than enough time for him to learn his lessons.
“Enough of this place!” he thinks with a claustrophobic elbow to my bladder. “I’ll finish developing my lungs on the other side. Right now, this environment is stifling. I was meant to be a newborn, and only then can I be satisfied. I’ll actually get to feed myself (sort of) rather than passively taking in nutrients through my belly button. I’ll be able to breathe real air, scream as loud as I want to, and devote my energies to real challenges like escaping from my swaddling blanket and gaining control of my neck muscles. Life in the womb is for the birds! I can’t take this for three more months!” And then he’ll punctuate that thought with an especially aggressive, resentful kick to try to knock the bowl of ice cream off of my stomach (lashing out in frustration–he’s also learned this from me).
I feel the pain of TH’s agitation quite literally, and I wish that he had the ears and the cognitive ability to heed my words of wisdom. I have wished away the days and months leading up to a big event or transition, only to look back wistfully once that time was past. I spent the last year of college working like crazy with 18-hour semesters, wanting to graduate early and get on with my career. I did not expect that a few short months later, during my first miserable year of teaching, I would drive through campus on my way to pick up comfort food from Jin’s Chinese Restaurant, crying my eyes out in envy of those lucky young undergraduates in the pedestrian crosswalks.
As I’m counting down the final days of my fifth year of teaching, my last year as queen of the fourth grade, I’m finding myself falling into the old habit of wishing away the remaining days. Like TH, I’m protesting irritably at the tasks and deadlines pressing in on me, and losing patience with the daily annoyances of feeling like everyone and everything is too close for comfort. In the midst of report cards, final grades, summer-crazed children, and debriefing meetings, I find myself daydreaming of reading a book and floating in the pool, and I do a little mental math to see how many hours are left.
But then I have to remember that it really won’t be long until summer is here, and as much as I’m going to enjoy the books and swimming, that will mean that my season as a full-time teacher is over. Those little squirrels who test my patience every day have endeared themselves to me, and in eight and a half more days, they won’t be mine any more. And I’ll be very sad to see them go.
TH thinks life will be easier after August 17, but I know that when the time actually comes he will not be so eager to leave his little cocoon. In fact, I’m predicting he’ll stay put for weeks after that date, until we finally force him out (resistance to change, even while complaining about current circumstances–I have to take credit for that, too). He’ll come into the world screaming in protest, and he’ll keep protesting for weeks after that, despite my best efforts to console him that life as a newborn is not all that bad.
Eventually, he’ll settle in and get the hang of this different kind of life, and he’ll stop pining away for the good old days in the womb. Probably, it won’t be long until he’s fantasizing about life as a toddler and growing impatient with his puny legs and insufficient sense of balance.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep telling him to ease up on the complaining and to enjoy the ride. And I’ll see if I can convince myself to do the same.