I read an interview a few months ago with Gregory Maguire, the guy who wrote Wicked (the retelling of The Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch’s point of view — now a smash Broadway musical). He and his partner have adopted three children, and are now, he said, basically held hostage by them. Their home lives revolve around making their imprisonment as pleasant as possible (a project, I’m sure, that’s made easier by the many millions of dollars Wicked has — deservedly — raked in for them).
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the hostage situation at our house. I know that in a previous life, even a previous life with one child, I did leave the house for more than an hour at a time by myself, and that the latter 15 minutes of that hour weren’t consumed by a growing sense of anxiety about the baby needing to breastfeed. I know that on all my previous anniversaries, even those with child, Rachel and I went out for dinner, as opposed to this year’s aborted lunch date that proved too ambitious for a carseat-averse six-week-old and his frazzled mothers. I remember walking with Rachel and Rowan to day care in the morning, accompanying them on outings, not staying home to sleep and feed the baby. I know I used to have several hours of calm between kid bedtime and adult bedtime. I know that I used to make plans with people that involved set times, not, “I’ll call you when we’re ready to leave the house” (i.e., when both children — and, I guess, adults — are awake, fed, changed, dressed, packed up, and not crying).
It’s just that I don’t remember those times very clearly right now.
I think about the hostage situation as I pad around our darkened basement, Isaac held close to my chest in the sling. It’s his preferred — nay, pretty much his only — method of going to sleep for naps and at night. We try to transfer him to the crib while he is, as the non-attachment parenting books recommend, “sleepy but not yet asleep.” Sometimes this works, but often it doesn’t, and he wakes and cries, and then we put him back in the sling and commence the whole walking around the basement thing again.
What I’m trying to do during these times is revel in them rather than rebel — especially in the moments in which my infant son sleeps snuggled against my chest. I remind myself that he is so small; that these unsettled, trusting basement walks are the merest sliver of his life and mine together. That this is the only summer of his infancy, that my freedom will return in time, and that I will likely look back and think, the way I so often do about situations that seem problematic at the time, “What was the big deal about that?”
“There’s no place like home,” said Glinda, Good Witch of the East. That’s true, but you’ll notice the ambivalence inherent in that statement. For the time being, I’m stuck at home a lot, waltzing and waiting with Isaac, following his dictates rather than my (admittedly conflicted) desires. And I’m trying — and sometimes, even often, succeeding — in seeing my captors as allies.