It wasn’t until Manchild was over a year old that I finally understood. My body is not my own. I had heard people talk about this during pregnancy, while nursing, even in reference to their relationship with their husbands. But I didn’t get it. At least I didn’t get it in the somewhat regretful, somewhat longing way they seemed to mean it.
Your body is not your own because your husband likes it, too?
Your body is not your own because you are sharing it with a little creature that is growing and making it an odd, uncomfortable shape?
Your body is not your own because you have a little person who will cry if ever he is more than two feet from it? (And also, he likes to stick his hands down your shirt whenever he is hungry or uncomfortable?)
It wasn’t any of those things that made me reflect longingly on the time when my body was my own, completely and undoubtedly.
I could understand why they would say that, of course. Because when is your body not your own so much as when you have someone else’s life inside of it? When someone else depends upon it to provide them nourishment? Still, I could tell I didn’t feel the same way some of them did.
Until this realization hit me: My body is not my own because I am a jungle gym.
It was the pulling. The climbing. The clinging. The jumping. The grabbing-mom’s-face-and-turning-her-head-to-look-at-ME! The standing on mom’s calves when she happens to be kneeling down. (Ouch!)
It was then that I understood.There will be some little person climbing or crawling, grabbing or clinging, jumping or pulling on my body for many years to come. I will be their playground. Their jungle gym. The thing on which they jump and step to get a slightly better view. The way in which they learn to pull harder if they want something to move in a certain direction.
This is not necessarily because they love me too much to let me go. It isn’t always because they feel so strongly that they have to share something with their dear mother. And I don’t believe it is because they are so energized by my presence that they can’t contain themselves, although that may be a contributing factor. I can handle those things. I can handle the part when they run into my arms because they are so excited to see me, or when they try to climb up my legs because there is a dog and they know I will keep them safe, or when they just found a pretty leaf and need me to come see because it is too wonderful not to share, or when they are sick and need a place to rest. I am happy to donate my body to those causes.
It is when my body becomes a toy that makes me want to lie down and cry. When they do things because they are impulsive. When they don’t realize that the person telling them to please stop or please let go or please don’t do that any more has feelings – as in, nerve endings. When it sort of seems like they are at an age where they could be taught to respect other people’s space, except that they are too impulsive to remember that kind of thing.
And that is when I become wistful of the days gone by, when my body was my own. And wistful for the days ahead, when it will be once again.