The Metamorphosis of Small Bear

Babyman’s favorite books are the Berenstain Bears series.  Most of us remember the Berenstain family thusly: Mama, Papa, Sister and Brother.  (Later on, Stan and Jan Berenstain’s son Mike muscled his way into the family franchise and created third sibling Honey Bear, as well as a number of more commercial books and the animated television series, but we are purists.)

A closer look at the canon reveals that in the first book (and the early readers, like Old Hat, New Hat) there are actually only three bears living in the tree-house deep in Bear County: Mama, Papa, and Small Bear.  The story opens in Small Bear’s bedroom, where the young cub wakes to find that he is a stranger in his own bed: he has grown so fast that his knees are aching!  He is puzzled, and even more so when Papa declares that they will spend the day building a new bed while Mama, with a knowing rub of her belly, re-purposes the old one.  By the time his new bed is finished, a new baby has arrived.  Small Bear’s identity shift is complete, and he assumes the the title of Brother Bear.

So to bring it back to food for a New York minute, here’s a play on words you all know: Bun in Oven.  Yes, it’s true!  In roughly 26 weeks Babyman will undergo his own metamorphosis.  (Note to self: develop new alias for Babyman.)  In the meantime, I too will go through multiple metamorphoses, beginning with the current one, in which my body becomes a large condominium for another human being.

Babyman’s wee sibling is due exactly three years to the week from Babyman’s own due date, which means there is a certain familiar seasonality to this pregnancy and new motherhood.  Even as I attempt, day after day, to find new reserves of patience and creativity in managing my spirited 2.5-year-old, I catch myself indulging in a warm and fuzzy combination of anticipation and nostalgia as I remember his infancy.  (It helps, of course, that I am completely hormonal and emotional.  It occurs to me as I write that the latest baking jag might be part of some primal/1950s need to act domestic as new motherhood approaches.  Who knows?  Oh, and by the way, check out this delicious recipe for Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Skillet/Lazy Mom Cookies)

Babyman goes through phases where he repeats the same statements over and over, as if to reassure himself that they are true.  A current favorite: “I’m not a baby.  I’m a big boy.”  Or its cousin, the question: “Mommy, am I a baby?  Or a big boy?”  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, how many times a week do I utter a phrase along the lines of “We can sit here on the sidewalk and pout, or you can stand up and walk to the car like a Big Boy.”  Or, “I know it’s fun to eat black beans with your hands, but I also know you know how to use a spoon and a fork, just like a Big Boy.”  Moreover, we have officially reached that point where, at the playground, mothers of tinier tots will say “Oh, the Big Boy is using that truck.” To the casual observer, he is a big boy indeed.

That he is still (and always) my baby is irrevocably true.  That he is unreasonable and unpredictable and every bit a very, very little person with free will and a loud voice is also true.  How he will evolve in the next seven months is up for grabs.  I hope it gets easier…if only to give me the strength to do it again.

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