gradual milestones

there is a so much right now… it’s overwhelmingly sweet and poignant and heart-wrenching and growth-promoting… i leave on a 10-day research cruise in less than two weeks, and finally was able to start that conversation with quinn, after much hemming and hawing and stalling on my part.

it was pushing 9:30 sunday night. since there is lot of daylight right now i’m doing as much as i can to not turn on lights, and enjoying the feel of it grow darker by imperceptible amounts and then realizing i’m having trouble seeing what i’m reading. then i stop reading and do whatever i need to do to get ready for bed for the most part without turning on any lights, then fall asleep.Β  in addition to being right up my permaculture obsessed alley, it is helping me get to sleep well (though at 3am i am likely to be obsessing about sunchokes. i need to get some planted asap!) we arrived home to the dark house and snuggled up on the couch in the almost darkness, and i asked if i could talk to him about something. “you know how i told you i’d be going on a boat for a few days?” i explained in more detail how it would be ten days, and all the ins and outs. i’m getting on the boat in washington, but will be coming into newport on the boat so he will be able to see me and my boat come right up to the dock. (coparent can walk him there from his place if i text when we get close enough to shore for texting.) quinn got very quiet then he got a little quiver in his voice and sat up straight on my lap (he had been snuggled up against me) and said, “well, can i come on the boat too?” oh god. the agony. the poor kid. i mean i not only feel bad leaving him, but it’s like his favorite dream ever to go on a boat and here i’m going and doing the super funnest thing ever (in his mind) without him. so i explain no we’re going too far offshore, where the waves are too bumpy for little people, and we have to do a lot of work with heavy equipment that’s not safe, etc. “well, maybe i could take a nap down in the cabin?” OH MY GOD my throat hurt so badly, listening to his problem solving little self find potential solutions. sigh…. pretty soon he was just saying “don’t go on a boat, mama!” and we both cried a little bit and i told him i would miss him so much. he asked a lot of stuff like why did i have to go on the boat for work, and then finally told me “when i’m 20, maybe you can go on a boat again and i can go with you because i’ll be 20 and i can catch some salmon and do work on them with you too.”


20 is a magic number, when he’s 20 he figures he’ll be able to do all the stuff he wants to do but can’t yet because he’s too little. it sucks being little sometimes.

so then i figured while i was at it, i’d talk to him a little about saying bye bye to the milks. we’ve only brushed up against the subject a few brief times, and usually he just deflects and says he is never going to be done having mama milk. i mostly just drop it at that point. rachel at 6512 and growing posted a photo of her four year old and a cake with icing saying “goodbye milky” on it was an aha moment for me, a way to help him with the transition- we’ll have a bye bye milks party! so i have been rolling that idea around, and sunday night i was trying to explain that it’s up to him when we stop, but that there might not be much milk when i come back from the boat, and did he want to stop before i leave on the boat, or did he want to be able to try having mama milk again when i come back. he was so visibly upset when i suggested stopping when i leave, and got immediately calm again when i suggested he’d be able to have milk when i come back. so that’s that. he requested, “can you do something while you’re on the boat to make it so the milk doesn’t get old in there?” i think he’s worried it’ll go sour. aww. then i brought up that maybe when he says bye bye to the milks for good, that we could have a party and make a cake. and he lit up. he still didn’t want to do it before i leave on the boat, but sometime after i come back… now he is maybe sort of looking forward to it at least. he told me he will “bring some guys” (invite some people) and his cake will have “melted chocolate on top and white on the bottom” and i asked if i should have carmen make it for him or should we make it and he said we should make it (awwww. carmen makes amazing sweets next door to us at the farmer’s market, so that boosted my sugar-free whole wheat ego big time). and he will get candles and everyone at the party will “each get to blow out a candle” and… yeah. the party idea is a hit. i’m excited! i think it will be fun. and needed. poor guy. it’s hard to say goodbye! lol.

then i talked to him about how it was when i went to seattle for three days last october, which he didn’t remember at all. i told him he had been with dada playing and having fun for the three days. how he had been so happy to see me but had run away and hid in his “nest” (where he naps at coparent’s- i think they had just built it during that 3 day period but he naps in it to this day. all coparent does is suggest a nap, he snuggles in the nest, and coparent says “go to sleep” and he does! utterly magical to a mama who has to do all kinds of gymnastics-read-backrub or just resort to the milks for naptime.) i told him how when i came into the room after seattle, he told me he didn’t want to come to me but he really wanted milk. and then he crawled onto my lap and had milk and fell right to sleep because it was time for bed. and we woke up the next day and played and had fun: resilience.

he asked me to repeat that story several times “tell me again about seattle?” we’re working through how sometimes you can have so many strong feelings of different kinds all at once, and how confusing and overwhelming and “i don’t knoowwwww!” that can be.

we also discussed all the cool things he and dada might do while i’m on the boat- paddle in the canoe, go crabbing at the crab dock in the middle of the night, etc. on that subject, the three of us are going crabbing tonight! quinn (who has me wanting to bust out crying about every 3 seconds) requested a framed picture of “me, you and dada” crabbing on the crab dock. he described exactly how he wants it to look, just like a frame i have on my table at the market with pictures of carriers in it, and “it’ll have glass in front of it and black on all four sides” in a very detailed and excited description. oh, my aching heartstrings.

wild backyard strawberries

coparent and i talked it over and he’s supportive… but he was surprised and did not understand the goodbye milk party idea. he figured moms have to get their kid to think about anything else than milk, and he can’t see how it would work having a party: isn’t he just going to think about it so much that as soon as the party is over he’ll be ready to have milk immediately? i tried to explain that my definition of it “working” might be different from his. if the worst case scenario is that we party and quinn still isn’t done…. ok! i’m completely fine with that outcome, i’m committed to this process taking as long as it takes. but if it has to be a matter of me distracting/lying/waving arms to stop him, then that to me is NOT going to “work” for us. there is no area of our lives where i operate that way with quinn, i’ve always been very straightforward with him. i discarded the advice during the baby/toddler stages to “just distract them” from the “bad” thing they want to do, because to me it felt dishonest. i always explained what i wanted quinn to do, and left him the choice to leave what he was doing that i wanted him to stop, and that way he learned about it rather than it just happening without his real consent. it takes longer in the moment but i think in the long run it saves time, and even more important than that to me was to save my integrity. extrapolating to now at age four, doing that whole distraction thing would feel wrong. (not to mention he is not easily distracted!) furthermore i dearly do NOT want him to forget milk, i am thrilled that there will be one man in the world who will remember, fondly and vividly, so the next generation has more little people in the same boat. and more… and more…. if a party helps him remember it fondly, and not as a hardship, then by ALL means let’s have a party. and if it takes him another month after that, again: so be it.

i think coparent understood after i said all that. i think quinn GETS it, that after the party we are agreeing to it being done, and that he will therefore wait to ask for the party until he is really really really ready.

he still doesn’t want to ever stop having mama milk. he still doesn’t want me to go on a boat. i still don’t want to go, for that matter. as much as another completely separate me does want to be on the ocean once again, at long last. but i’m glad we’re talking about it, i have a tendency to bottle up my angst and avoid, avoid, avoid, until it’s past the point where there’s time to process and move through this stuff. when we get there, we still won’t want to, but we will. and we’ll be ok.

so many of these milestones are so gradual and ongoing- even if there is a visible mile marker in the river of time, i will know, looking back, that he and i have been practicing for it the whole time. the whole time.

7 comments to gradual milestones

  • Lb

    Poor Quinn (and mama!)- I still remember the first time my mom had to go on a trip. I'm excited for you though- can't wait to see pics of the open ocean!

    I also remember a time when Quinn's mama thought that 23 was the perfect age πŸ™‚ you guys crack me up! Tell Quinn I want to have a crabbin' date when I come to visit!

  • i love how you titled this 'gradual milestones'. i love how you are accepting that the milestone's path can be determined by your sweet son, and that it's okay if it's meandering and bumpy. Most of all i love how you are straightforward, empathetic, and supportive in his process. So many times a difficult transition, milestone or change is just "dumped" on children, without any way for them to effectively cope. Dumped and then they have to deal with it, because the adult agenda is set in stone or can't allow for any discomfort.

    Brava mama for all that you do raising quinn! πŸ™‚

    i was so choked up reading this, filled with compassion and empathy and recognition. although we didn't go the celebration route with our weaning, i can see how honouring and beautiful it would be…i am just so grateful for one more boy becoming an adult who is going to have such layers and weavings of memory of breastfeeding and will no doubt instill and support that value with raising his own children, and on, and on, and on. Both of my boys still remember nursing, one is 5 and the other 9…

    So beautiful, all that you shared. Your heart has such depth, thanks for sharing it:)

    ~Erin xo
    Erin recently posted..the days- they fly by

    • marybethrew

      awesome, so there will be at least 3 men who remember, then! thank you so much erin, your words here mean a lot. i wasn't sure if my title makes sense, but you totally got what i was trying to say. πŸ™‚

  • Wow, 10 days away from your little guy! That's huge.

    You know my experience with the biopsy and how we used my recovery time to night-wean him. I hated the thought of it, but it worked (I mean, he still night nurses when he really really needs it, but it's not a habit anymore). Everyone kept telling me how kids are resilient, and I believed them after that. Although I was also shocked at how fast he matured during that time.

    I was also thinking as I read this of how the other day I was taking Michael to stay with his aunt at her house for a few hours–the first time I would be leaving him there. And he told me, "Yeah, and I'm going to be sad!" I thought he was going to cry, but he was just making a statement. I love that he knows his emotional self that well.

    I, too, hope Michael will remember nursing. I remember hearing a story about a tribal chief who fondly remembered nursing–it was a pivotal moment for me, as I previously (incorrectly) thought it might mess him up later in life to remember suckling his mother's breasts. And considering Michael's incredible memory, he will probably remember nursing, even if he weaned right now. So you can make it four men who will remember, lol.

    Best wishes for you in this process. πŸ™‚
    Lisa C recently posted..Wordless Wednesday- Oregon Zoo

    • marybethrew

      i do remember your story lisa, and i think it made total sense, especially given that you were not only away for a night, but needed to recover afterwards once you were home. i wouldn't be surprised if night nursing is a lot less prevalent after this trip, even though going into it, he needs to know he *can still do it (as it sounds like michael has the assurance of) i think he'll be able to get more used to sleeping without it with this solid chunk of days. i am happy he has his dada who is very much on board with cosleeping, so he will still get to snuggle up when he needs it. already we are dabbling with falling asleep without milk, and often sleep right through until morning without a request. the wake up nurse will likely be the last to go. πŸ™‚

  • I think for us the last one will be the nap, but who knows. πŸ˜›
    Lisa C recently posted..Wordless Wednesday- Oregon Zoo

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