Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Before men become men, they are their mothers' little boys

I read a beautiful post at Bush Babe of Granite Glen. She recounts the story of her baby boy's lost teddy bear, and why finding it was so important. You can read it HERE.

Little boys, they grow up so quickly and sometimes it happens in an instant. Bush Babe's story reminded me of my little boy and his blankie, a quilted, white cotton rectangle that started out as a changing pad. He didn't care. He loved this thing and it went with him everywhere. I wasn't allowed to wash it as the smellier it became, the more he loved it. "Leave it crunchy," he'd admonish me when I tried to sneak it into the machine. It got to the point where I'd want to pick it up with tongs. The binding at the edges started to wear first, because he liked to drag the blanket's edges through his fingers and under his nose, breathing deeply, while he sucked his thumb.

Round and round went this blankie through his tiny hands, and it was plain that the cotton must have had some magical properties since he turned into a limp rag when he touched it. At nap time, he succumbed quickly and quietly, his eyes rolled back in equals parts bliss and stupor, with the blankie stuffed in his face. But as the years went by, we faced a dilemma. He sucked his thumb with the blankie, and only with the blankie, and once he turned four-years-old, my husband the dentist gravely informed our boy he'd have to stop sucking his thumb or it would affect his permanent teeth.

Now, our little guy had a long history with this thumb of his. In fact, an ultrasound taken when I was several months pregnant showed him hiccuping and heartily sucking his thumb even then. It was not going to be easy to convince this child to give up a habit he's enjoyed since he floated around in utero. And since a blankie is to a thumbsucker what coffee is to a cigarette smoker, he'd probably have to abandon both at the same time for this to work. This called for tough love, but I sure wasn't going to enforce the new rules, and neither could my husband when it came down to it. Look at this little face (standing with his big sister) and tell me you'd do otherwise.
Our little boy was an intelligent child, and had a practical nature, so we sat him down, presented the problem, and asked him what he thought he should do.

After considering his options, he decided that he'd give up his blanket, and therefore his love affair with his thumb, when we brought our first puppy home. Rosie, a Black Lab, would soon be old enough to leave the litter and move in with us. That was several weeks away, so there would be time to adjust and accept the decision. Done.

Well, the weeks went by and in the flurry of excitement of bringing home our very first puppy, I forgot all about our boy's promise. I settled little eight-week-old Rosie into her crate that first night, and then I stood back to see if she'd calm down and sleep.

Then I turned and saw my little boy, solemnly walking down the stairs, holding his folded blankie in front of him with all the ceremony of a ring bearer at a wedding. If he had second thoughts, it didn't show on his face. Without a word or even a glance at me, he walked up to the crate and placed his blankie beside the puppy who had a good sniff, then snuggled into it.

Satisfied, he looked up at me. "Rosie needs it more than me. She's probably missing her mommy and all her brothers and sisters right now, and this will help her feel better."

That was the last time he sucked his thumb. And he became a young man right in front of me.


Running Person said...

Hi there!
I found your site through PW, and I love your picture of the orchids! I am learning myself. One of these days, please teach me how to become a freelance writer. I have three degrees (1 Master) and the only thing I want to do is write, alone (i.e. with no children drooling on me) at my desk.

Lottery Girl said...

Oh, Novel Woman. This post is simply stunning. I have tears in my eyes.

Why do they have to grow up? The eternal question. Beautiful pics of beautiful kids. Thanks!

Ipsey said...

You're killin' me, Smalls!
My Elliot (4th and final) turns 1 on the 20th, and my heart is breaking.

Beautiful stuff, though, lady.


Lynne Sears Williams said...

Awww. Wonderful story, well told!
Thanks. Oh, BTW, I think I'm getting the hang of my blog. Almost.
Soon, I will add pictures of flowers, too. Hugs to the big boy and his mom.

jeanie said...

Oh, you got me crying (mind you, so do some ads).

Came by way of Bush Babe to you, actually!

Doug Hamilton said...


I know the story, I was there. I don't know how you do it but you still make me cry like a baby. It is truely a wonderful thing, life. You have a knack for pointing out the little, wonderful moments which are so dear.



Anonymous said...

What a lovely story. This is the reason it's great to blog. Now you have stories like these written down, so that future generations will enjoy them too!

First time I've been here.


A Novel Woman said...

Well, thanks for saying so, Sandra and thanks for coming by! Hope to see more of you.

A Novel Woman said...

Well, hello there Doug. First time here? You seem vaguely familiar...didn't I wake up with you this morning?

A Novel Woman said...

Hey, Lynne, you can do it! I know you can.

I will hug The Boy/Man when he gets home from class tonight. In three weeks he turns 20!

Jeanie, welcome! I love Bush Babe's blog, too. She's a wonderful writer. Her story about Dash and his bear made me weep.

A Novel Woman said...

Hey, Amy! Almost didn't see you there (it's because you're so tiny). I know what you mean. When you know it's your last one, every moment becomes so significant. And it also coincides with our hormones going batty. Ah, me. Enjoy each day because that's all we can do.

Susan Adrian said...


Just have to admit it:

Yep, you made me cry too. {SNIFF}


P.S. You are SO good!

BB said...

Gorgeous... loved it! Thanks for being so kind as to link to me... our boys will always tug at our heart-strings, methinks.

Sounds like they have that "tactile" thing in common, as well as mums who like to write. Perhaps you can arm me for the pre-teen and adolescent years ahead of me?? Or maybe ignorance is bliss?


PS You have 'outed' me a bit - see latest post!!

BB said...

PPS How handsome is your "little man"... is he just as handsome now? (Silly question, you're his Mum!). Love both these pics...

dykewife said...

bah! dentists and their concern about thumb sucking and permanent teeth! i was a thumb sucker, like your son, in the womb. in fact, my dad's first sight of me was with my thumb firmly ensconced in my mouth.

dentists also had concern about my permanent teeth and thumb sucking, but i didn't give it up until i was 13 or so. i have no problem with my teeth that the thumb caused. i have an inherited proponety to impacted eye teeth (mom never lost her baby teeth, my sister's right one grew behind her baby tooth, boy's grew out in front of the teeth beside where they should've been. none of htem sucked their thumbs.

dentists! bah!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story. Someday when your baby is 27 like mine is this story will mean even more to you.

Anonymous said...

That is the sweetest story ever. Thanks.

A Novel Woman said...

Susan, thanks so much. I cry when I read it, too.

Barbara, in the next few weeks, my three kids turn 18, 20 and 22. I'm amazed it happened so fast!

Dykewife, you wouldn't "bah" my dentist-husband. He's the sweetest.

Hey, Half-Past! Nice to see you again.

A Novel Woman said...

Bush Babe, Absolutely he was a tactile baby. There were a few days when he was inconsolable as a young baby, and I finally realized it was because the sleeve of his sleeper covered half of his thumb, and as soon as I adjusted it, his entire body slumped into peace. They communicate a lot if you pay attention.

The teen years are easy peasy compared to the toddler years, at least in my case. Sure they get into mischief, but if you lay the seeds of communication early, and they know you love them unconditionally and the rules you set are to help them not hinder their fun, then you get through it. But it's a joy to see them emerge as interesting people that you would choose to spend time with, not just because they're related!

I'll see if I can dig up a photo of The Boy now.(wink)

klasieprof said...

My son was our first born. We had this cute multi colored blanket with fringe on it. My mom decided that we should have TWO, that way, one could be clean and the other NOT.
My son (later later diagnosed with Asperger's so no WONDER he could tell them apart) would only want HIS ONE blanket.
he called it his "DUTTHie" He did'nt want the "stinky" duttie (aka the CLEAN one)> He would sniff them BOTH, rub them under his nose, and throw the one down and stomp on it.
HE knew it was the evil Duttie!! LOL.
We still have it tucked away somewhere.

Debby said...

Oh, my gosh. That made me cry. Everything is making me cry today. Don't you love the people they've grown up to be.

A Novel Woman said...

Yes, Debby, there is something remarkable about watching your baby grow up into an adult you want to spend time with!