Friday, August 15, 2008

Through the looking glass

Last night, BubTar and I attended parent orientation for the new school year. It was just the two of us and found an empty pew. It happened to be directly behind the faculty pews and a teacher or two turned around to say hello to him. He shifted his big beautiful eyes towards the floor and shrugged his shoulders up to his ears. He said nothing in response, but I could see a smile hiding under his lashes, maybe a giggle trying to escape. This behavior always baffles me, my exuberant, opinionated, argumentative, hilarious, talkative boy suddenly forgetting how to speak to make eye contact. It shouldn't surprise me, though, it is par for the course with him. He has spent birthday parties and dinners with his head buried in my lap, ignoring friends or family or anyone else who might be around. I suppose I just have trouble reconciling this version of him with the one we see at home.

We sat together, listening to the administrator and principals have their turns at the microphone. My feet were swinging under the pew, bounced my knees rapidly. I have trouble sitting still. Airplanes are torturous for me. Can't bounce or I'd have very upset seatmates. At the movies, Josh is always squeezing my knee softly to remind me I'm shaking the entire row of theater seats. I swing and bounce while picking at my nails, another little habit of mine. I tear at my cuticles, find tough skin around the sides and rip it loose. The whole time I'm listening to the speaker, absentmindedly it might seem from the outside, but really these things help me focus. If I was trying to sit totally still, well, I'd be thinking about keeping myself still. If I was looking at the speaker instead of poking at my nail beds, well, I'd be noticing funny things about the speaker or maybe counting the tiles on the wall behind him. So I swing and I bounce and I pick...and I listen, too. Then I look over at BubTar. I see his feet swinging under the pew, and his finger in his mouth. He's mid-rip with a slice of his cuticle. His big eyes look up at me, his finger still partially between his teeth. For an instant, I'm looking right into a mirror. A small and boyish mirror, perhaps, but also a clear one.

I drink the reflection in and think deeply. This darling boy of mine, we have fun together, but he is also my sparring partner, my opposition in combat. He knows what to say, how to challenge me. He strikes a nerve. We press our heads together in an endless battle of wills, some days it leaves me exhausted. There are days when Josh gets home, I say, "You get the rest of the arguments for today. I, am out." Occasionally I fling myself across the bed dramatically, feigning utter exhaustion. Perhaps it stems from our sameness.

He and I, we have a temper. Not from rage, but from perceived wrongs. From hurt feelings. Hot, angry wet tears on our cheeks. I remember running to my room as a child, slamming the door, sobbing under my bed until I nearly hyperventilated...countless times. Years of memories and moments go by. Shouting things I didn't mean, things that weren't nearly true. "It's ALWAYS my fault. ALWAYS. I NEVER do anything right! NEVER!!" I hear them echoed by him now, "Fine! I don't want ANY toys. COME AND TAKE THEM ALL AWAY! I HATE PLAYING!" or "No one EVER plays with me. NOBODY LIKES ME!" or "I ALWAYS mess things up! I can't do anything right!" It is all always and never and none with him. I'm still guilty of it, too. A bit quieter now, though. I recall a conversation with Josh from the night before, and the ending, "Twice, does not mean ALWAYS, Kyla." I know why BubTar says it that way, because in that moment, it feels like always and never and none. It feels bigger than it is, as if it will always be the only feeling that exists. It leaves no room for reason. No room for calming down. Not in that moment, anyway, even if he doesn't know yet, there is always another moment where you take a deep breath and feel always and never and none dissipate. He hasn't figured it out yet and I wish he would. I tell him, again and again, I know how it feels, but it won't always. He wails and ignores me, content to be broken over it, whatever the particular it of this moment is, and frustration fills my chest like a balloon. I think, why do you ALWAYS do this? You NEVER listen to me. NONE of this is important. I know because we are the same, we are always and never and none. But the moments always pass. You'll learn this, just let me teach you. Can't we just skip all this?

When I was a child, at home, I was free, always free. I didn't think twice about my words or my actions. I was outgoing and quite funny. I had a dry wit, sometimes a little caustic where my sister was concerned, but clever. I always, always had a joke on the tip of my tongue. At school, though, I was very quiet, never sure how to bring that part of myself out for other people. I knew how to read my family well, these classmates and teachers, they were unknown. Jokes would come to me and I'd swallow them down, never knowing what reaction it might get. My family, they had to laugh, didn't they? Maybe I wasn't as clever as I thought. So I was quiet most of the time. I had friends, though, mostly the ones who were the type to seek me out. The louder ones, happy to have a quiet companion around. Or maybe they could see the sparkle in my quiet eyes, a glimpse of my other self, the one they would get to know eventually. I outgrew the splitting of myself, but slowly and a bit painfully. Most of it just happened the last few years, really. I still do it, to an extent. The me you find here in these pages, isn't always who you might meet out in the world. I'm more honest here, open. I speak of things here that would keep me silent elsewhere. But slowly the pieces are coming together. My trouble with reconciling my son at home to my son elsewhere is really his struggle to reconcile his selves. I wonder what might have been different if I learned this sooner, became one self instead of fragmented, smaller, compromised versions of myself depending on the whens, wheres, and whos. I hope he learns this lesson, too. He is valuable. He is funny and smart and quite the little character, we don't think it because we must...we think it because it is absolutely true.

There are parts of him, too, that I don't recognize...the perfectionism, the competitiveness, the way he wakes with the sun, and more; but so much of him, more than I can list here, is also me...I see now. I take one last long look at my little reflection and he smirks up at me, probably about to say, "You're crazy, Mom." and then I ruffle his hair and stick my tongue out at him. He rolls his eyes in a way that says, "Geez, you're so embarrassing." We both smile our big smiles and go back to studying our fingers, our feet still swinging in sync beneath the pew.

19 comments:

crazymumma said...

Frankly? I am so happy that he has you.

Because although he is your sparring partner, and defeats you at times...

you will also understand him the best.

crazymumma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vicky said...

That's the same relationship that I have with my elder son!

A few days ago we were lying about reading together when I suddenly got a fancy to tickle him. Before I had even moved or twitched, he reached up and blocked my hand.

"How did you know I was going to do that??" I asked in amazement, and he said "Don't forget Mum, you and me were made in the same factory!"

But it is also heartbreaking when you see them doing the same things you did to yourself and you can't make them stop before it hurts them like it hurt you too, eh?!

My younger one, he is a bit of an enigma and sometimes says and does things that make me wonder if I know him at all. It can be a bit creepy at times, and then I look across at my husband, who also engenders such feelings from time to time...

Chaotic Joy said...

This post was amazing Kyla. I hope he reads it one day, to see how much you study him, how much you love and appreciate him.

The way you described his "always, Never personality is Allison to a T. It drives me crazy a bit, and I always tell her she is overreacting. She can't help it though. Thanks for writing this and helping me remember that.

katrynka said...

Neat how you understand him... and that you understand yourself much more than in the past!

I also thought of knitting as something that you can do with your hands, while listening, that does not result in torn cuticles!! There have actually been a few studies done in schools that found when students knit while listening to a lecture... (within certain parameters regarding type of lecture), They actually attended better than when not knitting! Go figure!

InTheFastLane said...

What a beautiful reflection! It is hard to look at our reflection sometimes, because we can't always fix what we see. But, I see love in your words.

painted maypole said...

what a great mirror to have

flutter said...

I love this so much. You are so awesome

treesflowersbirds said...

Having children is one of the best ways to understand yourself isn't it? Of course you have to pay attention, which you do so well.

I really love this post. I swear I Could end up nominating you for a Perfect Post award every single month.

Gwen said...

I have a less than exemplary tendency to see my failures and flaws in my children, and not so much my strengths.

And my husband is a big ALWAYS and NEVER person. Makes me crazed, lol.

jen said...

i love this, babe.

Lisa b said...

better the boy than the girl I think.
what a lovely match you are.

Junie's Blog said...

Matthew is nothing like me but the funny thing about him is - he is Matthew whether he's at school, at home, at a friends, with Daddy, with Mommy . . .he is always himself. I think that is so cool because I was like you. One way at home or with friends and then a different way at school with teachers/adults.

I think Bubtar is pretty cool especially if he is like you.

motherbumper said...

I only catch glimpses of me in Gigi. Quick glimpses of me but not a whole lot (yet, I hope it's only yet). You are very lucky and Bub is ever luckier. Beautiful post K.

~aj~ said...

I also think it's a wonderful thing. Just like your first poster said, although the two of you might push each other's buttons like no one else...you also have an understanding of one another that no one else may truly get.

I can't wait to see if either of my boys end up with personalities like my own. If so, we should start buying stock in Kleenex. :)

SpondyGirl said...

Aww, I think this is one of the most beautiful things you've written.

PJ said...

Beautifully written!! Very poetic. You have great talent; I dare say he does too!

Julie Pippert said...

Most importantly, lucky lucky Bub with you.

Next, beautiful post, beautifully written. Moving.

Last, you keep telling me thins about the two of you but...I've never seen it. It's like the Bigfoot: elusive, but apparently real.

kittenpie said...

The shy side of a gregarious kid? I totally get. I was so the same.

I was not as passioante as you two are, but I know how it is to see something in your child and remember that feeling, because Pumpkinpie, like myself, has the hardest time bringing heaving sobs under control.

It's good for them to have someone who remembers what it is to be there, even if it is frustrating for both us and them.