For all that being a stay-at-home mom can be viewed as drudgery (whether you're living it or observing someone else live it), there are some amazing plusses in my life because of it.
I took Nathan on a walk to the park a few days ago. He was in the Snugli front-carrier, facing out (his preference). I tried zipping my jacket up over his front and arms so he'd stay warm, but he insisted on having his arms out where they could grab things. I bent down a few times to pick up things and hold them close to him to explore: a handful of snow, which he thrust his little fingers into; a stick, that he grasped and tried to insert in his mouth; and gravel, the sound of which seemed to catch his interest as I let it fall through my fingers. I managed to climb the narrow stairs of a curly slide, squeeze the two of us through the child-sized opening at the top - without hitting Nathan's head on the bar overhead - and slide back down to the ground.
When I am in a peaceful state, I think I observe more detail than many people do. Even without Nathan, I would easily marvel over grains of ice and snow. Because of Nathan, though, my observations increase enormously. He matters to me, and therefore what interests him matters to me. Tumbling clothes in a dryer (why do I normally walk right past that fascinating montage of swirling color?), the small grains of dust caught in my dog's hair... I wouldn't see these things if I wasn't watching Nathan so closely.
Watching him play today on the floor, I realized that I envy him his unapologetic life. He doesn't consider someone else's misunderstanding a reason to feel hurt; he's currently impervious to ridicule or derisive laughter; he doesn't for one minute think it might be stupid to put dog hair in his mouth to see what it tastes like.
I wish I could keep that quality in his life. I want him to care about others, but I know he'll also care about others' perspective of him. I know already that I can't protect him from hurt. I know when I tell him during his teen years that he is unique and special and that trying to be like everyone else around him isn't the path to joy, he will discount my words just like I and scores of other kids discount their parents' words. Parents are supposed to think you're special. It's their job.
There will be times, possibly several years, when he is embarrassed to be seen with me in public. My hope is that some part of my wonder, my delight in the little things in life, will leave a deep enough impact in the early years that it calls him back as an adult...
I don't care whether he's 8 or 58: I want him to keep playing - though if he's still trying to put dog hair in his mouth when he's 58, I'll express my concerns.