The day will come

I took Holden to see Inside Out over the weekend. After Kick and Holden returned home from the first all-boys/men camp sleepover with 5 boys under the age of 5 and their dads. The trip consisted of fishing, four-wheelers, BB guns, pillow fights, and body odor. You know, “man” stuff. All and all, it was a great weekend, especially for Holden.

Upon returning home, Holden was a crabby mess of course. Exhausted from the excitement and stimulation. I was aware of my own annoyance as I couldn’t wait to have my sweet boy in my arms hugging me and indulging me in all the adventures he had been on over the past 24 hours. Telling me stories. The minute he walked in he had to show me the details of his Red Ryder that had been in the closet since Kick had presented to him at his 2nd birthday party. It had finally been the time to wipe the dust off and put it to good use. He showed me where you look to aim, how to shoot it, and the little switch around the barrel. His mouth moved a mile a minute.

But then, he took a turn. Eyelids heavy, he refused my wish for him to take a bath. For me to wash him from the stench of that boy smell. The combination of sweat, dirt, urine, and McDonald’s breakfast. Through one ear and out the other my words went, not even a glance to my eyes letting me know he was merely listening. The voice within my heart saying, “All I wanted to do was spend quality time with my child AFTER I clean him up, and right now he doesn’t want a thing to do with me nor does he respect me!” (I think I’ve told you before, I’m anal.) This thought was on repeat. Anxiety rising. I’m aware of it.

Well, he took that bath alright. He put up a good fight at first but only to succumb when the effect of the boys’ weekend was too much to bear- the itch to the back of the underpants. “My bum hoits,” he tells me. Translation: my bum hurts. His speech delay is still lingering after 2 years of therapy- the odd pairing of a Boston accent and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah, not much hygiene present during this outdoor rendezvous.

Alas, bathed, clean, smelling good. No more bum hoiting. Off to the movie we went. As a budding therapist, I couldn’t wait to witness the mental health aspects of this children’s movie! I had read the articles and anticipated all that I had been learning over these past two years in graduate school in color on the big screen. Holden and I have been talking about each emotion that we had seen in previews. His favorite? Anger, “because he gets vewwy mad!”

Much more than the flowery, exaggerated, and totally missed by all children plot line (other than the adventure these characters/emotions go on) was the theme of how each emotion serves a purpose in your well being. At the end of the movie (read no further if you haven’t seen it and want to be surprised), Sadness finally gets to feel important- she’s the character that solves the challenge in order to get the little girl “fixed”. When I interpret its depth, sadness does serve a function in everyone’s life. Without acknowledging this emotion as legitimate and giving it some attention, we fall off balance. We change. We find ourselves behaving in ways that don’t align with our values. We’re conflicted. It’s so very internal.

Much more than this takeaway and all its excitement (I could talk about that for hours) though, were the the thoughts I have as a mother. Some kind of inspiration within me. The little girl, 11, was going through transitions in the movie. Memories kept, different emotions taking precedence over them. Stored, then. The memories served to function the different personality islands, or “traits” as I saw them. I was reminded that Holden will only be a child for a very small part of his life. A child that needs to fill up his “Goof Ball” island, his “Family” island, “Friendship” island, and any other island he takes to, feeds, and builds up. Before any other more serious islands come to fruition (Girlfriends, Social Skills, School Pressure, etc.). He should be living in silliness, napping when dirty, getting stinky with the boys. Letting his bum get itchy. BEING A CHILD!

The day will come when it’s no longer cool to come home to Mommy, express his excitement, and fill me in on his adventures.

The day will come when a girlfriend is way more important to fill in on all his thoughts.

The day will come when it won’t be cool to give me a kiss and do our secret motion from Little Rascals where you wiggle your fingers under your chin to each other and say goodbye at the door.

So, for right now, I’m going to make an effort to put anal mom-mode on the back-burner. Let the kid be a kid. (I thought I was doing this already, and maybe I do it often, but it’s nice to get re-reminded.) Indulge in childhood wonderment. Before his memories are stored in shadows, before emotions other than Joy resonate with how he sees and feels the world, before he cares too much about things other than what he gets to see today and who he gets to play with and what he gets to play and what he will learn today and how much time can be spent dancing, before it’s no longer the best part of his day to open his lunchbox and see the shapes I cut his sandwich in, and before he knows a little something about what it’s like to be any kind of adult much sooner than I would hope he would.



To my son’s step-dad on Father’s Day


Today is your first “official” Father’s Day. The first day we can celebrate you as a step-father to Holden since we’ve been married shortly less than one year ago. A special day indeed as we are spending it together, and I will love and cherish the moments. Usually we don’t have this. For some reason there was a level of understanding this weekend, further healing.

No one asked you to be here, but here you are.

You’re here, and it’s also much more than that.

You’re his heart, his guide, his protection, his stability, his home. His Kick.

No doubt, something special exists between the two of you. He shows his love for you in all the ways he knows how, for a wild-haired and bright-eyed four-and-half year-old. You’re the one that gets the most affection- the most spontaneous touches, the hugs, the snuggles. He gravitates towards you. He needs to be around you. Hugging your leg. Sitting on your lap. Laying his head on your shoulder.

In a candy store, he picks up a box of Good & Plenty’s. “Can we get these for Kick?” he asks knowing you like them. You’re on his mind.

His eyes watch you, follow you. Waiting for the moment your eyes match his. He smiles knowing you see him. Hoping you’re proud of him. Then quickly glimpses at me to make sure I saw the connection. He focuses on you. Mainly. Always you.

You stand tall and firm. He dances and bobbles around you. Lives in his childhood wonderment and returns to you.

You let him in just enough, and he lets you in fully. You’re teaching him a steady balance of vulnerability and boundaries.

And for right now, You’re the only one whose disappointment or discipline upsets him. He takes it, learns from it. All it takes is a few stern words. It’s as if there’s some magic or power behind that deep voice that speaks his language.

He wants to do what Kick does. Shoot a bow-and-arrow, go fishing. Often times when we’re not with you, he doesn’t hesitate to remind me, “That’s what Kick does!”

“Hey, Kick!” resounds off the walls in our home.

It replaces “Hey, Dad!”

I often wonder what it’s like to be in your shoes. Not being given the title “Dad” for the presence, the love. Not getting to be totally acknowledged by the word. Because that’s exactly what it is, a privilege, a recognition for all that you do for him, for us. I feel that way about being called “Mom” at least. Every time I hear that little voice say it, I think about the preciousness. I would imagine some pain exists below the surface not hearing that little voice say it, though we all know the magnitude of your involvement in his life. “Hey, Kick!” does resonate own sweetness.

I think back to the time Holden was a few months old… a year old… a year and a half. The word “Dad” couldn’t leave my mouth alone, without tears… without anguish. My voice quivered.

Time heals. Much later than that we began to read books at bedtime on Dad’s and Step-Dad’s. I was strong enough then to say the word “Dad” aloud, around the time Holden was able to speak. Partly because I knew I needed to do it for him, but because you instilled within me some kind of strength also. A team effort.

One day Holden will decide what he wants to call you. When he has developed enough to fully understand. To make decisions. To use what you’ve given to him. To hear the word “divorce” and make sense of the world. Of his life. Of his relationship with you.

For now, he loves his Kick. In this moment. All day today. And that’s what he knows.