Wednesday, September 30, 2009
My baby Ben.
There is a poem that was illustrated, translated, and made into a hysterical and wonderful children's book. It is called “The Wild Baby" by Barbro Lindgren. It starts off like this:
Mama loved her baby Ben
Her small and precious child,
But he always disobeyed her,
He was reckless, loud, and wild.
Ben dives into the kitchen sink, falls asleep in the grandfather clock, hangs from chandeliers, and runs off to live in the woods, where he scares a wolf and eventually wanders back to his mama, unharmed and undeterred. His mother, understandably, is a complete wreck throughout the entire story. But oh how she loves her Baby Ben. She is in a constant state of panic and turmoil over the thought that he might hurt himself and be lost forever.
Despite reading this book and memorizing its words, I went and named my second-born child Benjamin anyway. Ben is such a jovial name… and Ben is mostly jovial. Except when he isn’t.
As a toddler, he did find ways to injure himself that had never even occurred to me, and he is the only one of my children (so far) who has given me cause to call the cops. (He vanished, the neighbors and I looked everywhere, he was silently listening to us all frantically call his name as he lay belly down in the sandbox. I was so mortified. And I think I have a pretty good indication of how a heart attack begins…)
He is now four and is a dramatic child, prone to lying (NO IDEA where he gets that from) and fits. Tantrums with kicking and crying and flailing. And pleading. I don’t spank, yet he stares at me with big, round, tear-filled eyes and sobs, “Don’t hit me!” First, I say, really, dude? You think I would hit you? And of course, I’m thinking, dear God I hope no one ever hears him say this because I MAY hit the Social Services representatives when they come to investigate. (He’s what some might call a manipulator.)
Yesterday, I heard a door slam and Ben say, loudly, “GO AWAY ELLA NOW!” And then there was high-pitched crying. So I went upstairs. I asked Ben WHY he slammed his door and yelled at Ella.
“I didn’t,” said Ben
“Yes you did,” I said.
“No. I didn’t,” he reiterated, irritated.
“Then why is Ella crying?” I asked, in my “intense voice.”
“Because she fell down,” he lied, brazenly.
I’m not terribly thrilled with this turn of events.
Last night, Ben stayed home with John when I took Caleb to his piano lesson. I came home to find them wrestling in the living room. After we got the kids to bed, John expressed a desire to spend more time alone with Ben.
“I think he gets ignored a lot,” John said. “The twins command so much attention, and Caleb has a lot more going on, so Ben kind of gets left behind.”
This, honestly, had not occurred to me. I try really hard to fairly divide my attention between the children. I considered how well I was actually doing this as John told me all of the things he and Ben had talked about.
“Did you know at school Ben mostly likes to play alone but he has one friend he calls “a rough and ready” guy? And that the girls don’t like him anymore because he jumped out from behind the books and yelled “RAWR” at them? But a girl named Greta DOES like him?”
Then John handed me a Christmas ornament I had found when cleaning out my desk earlier that day. (Apparently, it hasn’t been cleaned out since Christmas.) It’s a little bear with a red scarf around it. Ben had showed it to John and said, “Look! He’s wearing a winter tie!”
I didn’t know any of that stuff. I do ask Ben about preschool, but he usually answers with an, “I don’t know,” or an “I don’t remember” and I don’t generally press him. How could I be missing out on all of his little stories? His four-year old heartaches and his funny little definitions for things and his wacky sense of humor? I had guilt. And remorse. And my heart ached with love for this funny little man.
So, before I crawled into bed, way too late, by the way, I walked into the boys’ dimly lit room where their chests rose and fell softly in their respective beds. I took a long look at Ben’s little sleeping cherub face. He lay still, his arms folded over his chest, his blonde curls pressed against his forehead. I reached down and gently touched his warm, smooth, pink little cheek. His eyes fluttered open and he gazed up at me.
“Mama?” he whispered, drowsily.
“Yes, baby?” I answered, sweetly. He stretched his arms above his head, let out a slow yawn, gave me a half-smile and said,
“I peed my bed.”
When mama saw he wasn’t there,
The tears streamed down her face,
She wept and wept in great despair.
“He’s gone without a trace.
I’ll never find him in the wood,
My Baby Ben is lost for good.”
Then suddenly, out popped his head,
“A wolf just licked my face,” he said.
“I licked him back, he ran away,
we won’t see him again today.”
Mama broke into a smile
and hugged him tightly for a while.
She bundled home her baby Ben,
Of course, he’s since run off again.