L started crawling this week, and he couldn't be happier about it. Even before he figured out forward-motion, though, he's been going through a transformation. My cuddle bug has been exploring his independence. No longer content to be held and hugged all day, he perilously lunged out of our arms towards whatever shiny fun thing caught his attention (usually his older brother). So we'd mostly been plopping him on the floor surrounded by toys and while we went about our business we could see & hear him laughing and babbling...until suddenly he got tired or frustrated and shrieked to be picked up. And then lunged out of our arms soon after...rinse repeat. He wants to be free, yet he wants to be held...and he can't really have both so he is torn. He's simultaneously asserting his independence while still needing the safety & comfort of our care. I've been talking to a colleague with a teenage daughter, and its amazingly similar---as much as she thinks she wants to just be free from any parental restrictions, she actually needs those firm boundaries to push & rebel against (or what's the point, right?)
I notice these same contradictions in my own psyche. As much as I love & appreciate caring for and being part of my family sometimes I seriously envy the freedom of my single friends to plan their present and their futures based solely on their own dreams and desires. From career moves to vacation plans to simply what to watch on TV in the evening, they can make their decisions for themselves and themselves alone. Not only do all my decisions require consideration of multiple other people, these other peoples' moods can affect my own so profoundly. They say a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child...I'd expand that to say that anyone is only as happy as their unhappiest family member. In other words, in a family unit, everyone's emotions are inexorably tied together, for better or worse. When G is impatient & cranky, I feel it. When I am overwhelmed & anxious, he feels it (and then I feel guilty for making him anxious...and so on and so forth).
Maybe its because I came to marriage & motherhood so late in life, got a little too used to the freedom of being completely on my own, but I really can't help occasionally feeling trapped & constricted. The feeling generally leaves as abruptly as it comes on, and is replaced by overwhelming love & gratitude for my family. Because, coming to it late, I know first-hand the alternative...freedom & independence for me came at the high price of loneliness. I have no regrets with my choices, nor would I realistically want my life to be any other way. I think I'm just settling into my new roles & responsibilities, and a few years later I won't remember any other way. Is this universal or is it just me?