It was over two months after the birth, but it was the first moment I experienced pure unfiltered emotion.
In the world of baby music, there is one album that may stand out above the rest. In 1974, Marlo Thomas assembled the children’s album Free to Be You and Me. If you are a Gen Xer, you may be having an “Oh, I remember that!” moment, humming the simple, timeless melodies and surprised at how well you recall the beautiful, poignant lyrics. Whether you have heard the album or not, now is a perfect time to download or YouTube it. You can reconnect to your inner child and develop a new connection with your new child, singing the tunes to sleep, or dancing around the room, or acting out the short vignettes.
It was in one of these moments that I had my first real bonding breakthrough with my little son. At the urging of my own mother, I decided to listen to the album again after three decades of it percolating in my subconscious. The title track opens with high pitched 1970s folk, in a key way too high for my voice now. I was immediately transported back to a 6-year-old dancing around my brightly colored room, climbing on the bed like a stage, and belting at the wall like it was the audience at Carnegie Hall: “…to a land where the river runs free, to a land with a shining sea, to a land in a green country…and you and me are free to be, you and me.”
As the album continued to play, I fuddled with my son in my lap, still learning the best way to maneuver him into comfortable positions that were also comfortable for me. I was finding motherhood to be a slow and more difficult transition than you see in movies or read in books and listening to this baby music from my childhood was initially cathartic for me. But I noticed that as I sang along, he was transfixed on my eyes. He couldn’t look away and neither could I. A perfect way to bond.
A soft flute started to play, and I froze. “When I grow up, will I be pretty, will you be big and strong…” I sang along to lyrics I had not heard in 30 years, somehow recalling every word. My body relaxed, my mouth twitched, my eyes welled and then the lyric came: “Well I don’t care if I’m pretty at all, and I don’t care if you never grow tall. I like what I look like, and you’re nice small…”
You’re. Nice. Small. My eyes overflowed into an uncontrolled waterfall, tears dripping onto the laughing face of my tiny son. My. Tiny. Son. He is so small, and he is so nice. And I am so in love.
It was over two months after the birth, but it was the first moment I experienced pure unfiltered emotion. No thinking, no fear, no questions, no pain. Pure instinct that this was my child; he is small, and he is helpless. and his total dependence is a blessing, not a burden. He is so nice small because a year from now, he will be walking. And ten years from now, he will be riding a bike, more often away from me than towards me. And twenty years from now, I will be hoping he remembers to call as he leaves home to find his place in the world.
This time is the time. These precious months when he’s small and helpless, and our life together is probably as simple as it will ever be. In that instant, I became grateful for the opportunity of motherhood. I let go of relating to this new responsibility as a disruption of my life and accepted it as the evolution of my life. I felt the weight of his tiny body, laughed at his crooked smile, and saw deep into his alert eyes and thanked him for forcing me to be so present at all times of the day, something we all strive for in our otherwise busy lives. And I accepted the length of this journey. Our lifelong commitment to each other will shape both of us, and I hope I can always make decisions that help support his freedom to discover who he is and be the child, boy, man he wants to be.
But while he’s small, it is so nice.
Free to Be You and Me Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Free-You-1972-Television-Cast/dp/B000002VDL