When Isla, my baby – she's 8 now but, ahem, still my baby – was still breastfeeding she was obsessed by the pendant that hangs from the necklace I haven't taken off since my husband gave it to me on our 10th anniversary.
Each and every time she nursed, once she was old enough realize her hands were attached to her body, her warm little fingers would grope my chest area until they found that green tourmaline stone. And she'd fondle it obsessively, somewhat possessively, between her fingers.
I hadn't thought much about this little habit until one day when I was nursing her on the kitchen floor of my cousin's house, just after Isla was released from Shriners Hospital. My friend, Katie, noticed how Isla was so mesmerized and soothed by the act of fondling my necklace, and said, "That necklace is a real touchstone for her."
While it turns out that "touchstone" doesn't actually mean the same thing as sensory-security object, I knew what she meant. And she was right. Isla needed to feel that necklace in order to ground herself. She needed it to assure her that all was right with the world, and, perhaps, that I was indeed her mommy. Consistency.
Once Isla was weaned, her attachment to that pendant didn't wane. Whenever we cuddled, she reached for it. She even tried to get away with putting it in her mouth. For a while she went through a phase of rhythmically sliding it up and down the chain like a zipper. It only took getting my skin caught in it once, and my shriek of pain, for her to learn that that wasn't such a great idea.
For Esther, Isla's older sister, the "touchstone" was a mole on the underside of my bicep. She reached for it, instinctively, each and every time she nursed. Then, just like with Isla, she kept on reaching for it even after I weaned her. When we cuddled, she fiddled with that protruding mole so much she'd make it irritated. And that, alas, was irritating.
"Please stop doing that!" I had to tell her again and again, with increasing volume and harsher tone... "I know you like playing with that, but it's not a toy. It's part of my body." Establishing boundaries, physical and otherwise, with my children is not my favorite part of being a mother. It goes both with and oddly against all instinct.
One day I was at the doctor's and he asked me if I'd like him to remove a few moles, including Esther's favorite one, right then and there. I consented. Just like that, the moles were gone. Esther was incensed and betrayed later that day when she reached for "her mole" and found a Band-Aid in its place. I think there might even have been tears. How could I? She still holds it against me today.
Occasionally, when Isla gets into my lap she remembers my necklace.
"You never take this off," she said just the other day. "No," I said. "I don't."
She ran the pendant up and down the chain a few times, while I cringed. But I didn't stop her.
All photos courtesy of Moi
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