Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Nesting Instinct

Pregnant women are told that one of the signs of imminent labor is the urge to “nest,” to clean, decorate, or otherwise give attention to their home. I’ve heard of women who, at the end of their pregnancies, scrubbed their kitchen floors on hands and knees.

With my first pregnancy, I wallpapered my son’s room. (Interestingly, while I was in labor, my mother cleaned her oven. I guess we both felt the urge to be productive.) The day before I delivered my second son I was busy moving furniture -- a desk and a wardrobe, to be exact.

I’ve observed the nesting instinct in both of my sons. Not that they’re pregnant; no, they both seem to find comfort in arranging things so that they’re just so. For example, I had to put away our playpen when boy #2 was still using it because boy #1 insisted on putting all his most precious things in it … to a depth of almost one foot. Boy #2 has turned into a voracious reader. When I change his sheets, I not only have to wrestle with the logistics of doing the job without hitting my head on the ceiling or falling out of the top bunk, I have to negotiate the stacks of books he keeps there.

I suppose it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the nest that my older son creates in our den magically reappears shortly after I’ve shoveled everything out from between the couch and the coffee table. There must be something comforting to him in the layers of school papers, dirty socks, and winter coats.

No, it shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, in the evenings I retreat to my corner of the couch, where I can curl up surrounded by knitting, books, spinning wheel, and bags of fluffy wool.

[Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,]

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