The bun and I were playing on the sofa in front of the living room window when I looked at him and realized, "He's my son." While it seems utterly absurd that I would stumble across this particularly obvious statement of fact, it was profound. I could sense in a real way that he was mine--that no matter what befell any of us in our lifetimes, no matter what sort of teenage angst was in his future, no matter what personal successes and failures, adversity or joys he would face, that he would be my son, and I would follow him through each one with my heart in my throat and on my sleeve. And so would his father. It's amazing how relatively quickly we became accustomed to having a bun around. For the first few months, it seemed like everything was hanging in the balance and disaster barely averted moment by moment from our tiniest and most fragile of beings. There was a sense of holding our breath, a superstitious belief that if we didn't watch him every second and continue praying to the manifold gods of wee things that the four seconds I turned around to grab another cup of coffee would be the four seconds that he discovered the ancient art of knife-throwing. Which may or may not be true; uncannily, he gravitates toward the most dangerous object in the vicinity, no matter how careful we are.
But at a certain point, we got used to the third person in our lives and he became just that: a person. Less an anomalous freakish miracle, or helpless magical bean, instead he's just a little human, sharing our lives. I still look with wonder at him, but it's less mysterious to me now. He just is.
But there are still moments of crisis management. After the bun had fallen asleep last night, my husband broke a glass on the floor and it shattered into a hail of tiny razor blades. While I was un-phased, having seen many glasses come and go and expecting many to perish in my future, my husband seemed genuinely panicked. We meticulously began scanning the floor for minute shards, but he kept apologizing. And then getting angry. He was actually going through the seven steps of grief over the glass.
"We need to get more expensive glasses. These suck!" He gasped.
"These were expensive." Department store expensive, not crystal expensive.
"But the glass was so thin!"
"Thin can indicate expense," I said.
"Then we need cheap thick ones," he grouched. "Or we need to put these ones away until the bun gets older."
He was stewing. I could see the gears of his mind working: first, the one shard of glass that remained on the floor was going to get embedded in the bun's hand. Then, because the shard was so small, it would go unnoticed for several years, festering. Two outcomes, both tragic, would develop silently: either the sliver would get infected and the bun was going to die of blood poisoning or some exotic biological toxin; or the glass would eventually dislodge from his hand and go straight to his brain where he would drop instantly from an aneurism.
To avert this disaster, we needed to rally and treat the scene like a hazmat site. The floor needed to be meticulously cleaned to a high-buff sheen which could handily serve as dinnerware if need be. Most importantly, we needed to get rid of the glasses, dishes, and, just perhaps, the windows too: they could be replaced by sheets of plexi. It was all coming together in his mind.
I looked at him, personally slaying the dragon to protect those small crawling bun-knees. "I'm not going to revert to complete incivility and drink out of plastic cups while he grows up," I stated. I had to cut him off at the pass, or we were going to live in a rubber romper room by sunrise.
He didn't answer but kept scouring the floor with his eyes. I watched him as we both crawled back and forth, crossing each other's path multiple times. "We can't panic over broken glasses, honey," I said.
"But he's the bun," he said. I know. He's the bun. He's the amazing gift we could never have imagined being so perfect, so vulnerable.
"If we panic over glasses, we're going to be stark neurotics by the time he's five. We have to harden our hearts just a little."
I'm not sure if this is true or not. It made me feel callous and mean-spirited when it came out my mouth. These past couple of weeks we've been struggling with getting the bun to sleep by himself, and there are often tears as a result. And I've had to harden my heart just a touch to walk out of his room when he's crying his little heart out, looking at me with watery eyes and reaching for me as I close the door on him. It kills me, but the sleeplessness kills us all so I do it.
And then I walk out to my husband, who is also looking at me with watery eyes because it kills him to hear the bun cry out in the dark, alone.
The truth is, being a parent is about making these decisions that seem designed to make your heart ache. Now it's the simple ones, like getting him to sleep and listening to the tears, but soon there will be harder ones. I dare not imagine them. I know that if I do, I will become the neurotic I prophesied to my husband. But they're out there, in the future, rising up to meet us as we try our best to shield the bun from the hail of glass with our naked, fully exposed hearts.