Monday, July 15, 2013

Cry. Then move on...

Yesterday, Charles and I took the boys to a concert in the park. We had visions of leisurely listening while enjoying our picnic-packed dinner. However, like some days, "leisurely listening" just wasn't in the cards for our boys. Christian insisted on playing at the nearby playground and Elijah was pissed that he was being confined to laps or his stroller, so I walked them both over to play while Charles hung at our picnic spot. The boys both launched themselves into the sandy area and began to explore- Christian making immediate friends with a group of boys willing to play "tag" and Elijah, anxious to conquer the many slides.

I spent moments appreciating how Elijah didn't mind the sand, didn't melt down about the sensory stuff, but quickly found his way over to one of the 5 slides coming off this play-gym monstrosity. I tried to give him some space and "let him do it on his own", but stayed nearby enough to lend some assistance. I was quickly struck by how he is very much a 3 year old trapped in a body that doesn't cooperate.

As I stood by the closest slide, which Elijah was thrilled to slide down, I watched him trying to climb back up the steep slope to slide again. He didn't want to go all the way around, climb the stairs and start again. He wanted to do what ALL kids want to do: He wanted to climb up the "down" of the slide and cheat the system. Only...he couldn't do it. He couldn't physically do what it was he wanted to, and he was FRUSTRATED. I gave him a moment, while he struggled and CRIED. I cried too. I want more than anything for him to have those "wins", those moments of feeling capable and independent. But, he's not there yet, even though HE doesn't really want to believe that.

I watched people stare at me with him. For the first time ever, I didn't care. I thought, Go ahead. Stare at me. I'm not exceptional. I'm not better than you. But, also I'm not burdened. I am a Mother who you know nothing about, with a child who you don't understand. And I am totally okay with that. I genuinely enjoy being around my child and whether anyone else "gets" that or not doesn't even matter.  What matters is my family. Plain and simple.

It was tough though, because it was fully apparent that Elijah knew what he wanted do, but just couldn't make it happen. I helped, but to him that wasn't the same. In so many ways, he's a typical 3 year old, with the "I can do it myself" mentality. Only...sometimes, maybe even many times, he can't yet do it himself. That was hard. That made me cry right along with him.

I wish I could make things easy for you, baby. I wish that everything wasn't 4 times harder for you than for everyone else. But I know that you will develop a strong character from it. You will appreciate (as you already do) those things you CAN accomplish. Accomplishment isn't everything. CHARACTER is. I believe that. You make me appreciate in ways I never could before those things I took for granted. 

While Elijah was trying to climb the slide, a little girl about 2 and a half years old came over and wanted to take a turn climbing the slide. She watched Elijah try to climb and then I gave her a turn, telling Elijah that "we have to take turns". As she easily climbed up the slide she said to her Mom, "See? I'm a better climber than he is." The Mom replied, embarrassed, "Well you're older than he is." I thought, No. She's not. I flipped through all of the scenarios in my head, and instead just said to the girl, "Well, you are a very good climber!" Then I went right back to helping my little man try to get out of it what he wanted.

He wasn't "happy". He wanted to do things he's not yet capable of. He's not dumb. He knows what he wants and knows that he's not getting it. It's only in those moments where I wish things were different. Where I wish that things could be easy for him. No Mother wants to watch their babies struggle. However, I do know that I have a fuller understanding and appreciation for things when they haven't come "easy". So...we cry sometimes. Because it's frustrating. Because you don't always get what you want.

We wrapped up our play at the playground and headed back over to finish listening to the music with Charles. The band finished a great song and the audience, along with Elijah, clapped and cheered. Elijah actually clapped and cheered louder than anyone. Everyone in close proximity to us, couldn't help but be struck by his enthusiasm. That's how it is- there are lows, but there are highs. What I admire most is that although things don't always go as Elijah might wish, he will still celebrate BIG the things that do. The moment of frustration is all but forgotten at the close of a fabulous song. That is the true gift. That is truly what it means to "live in the moment".  I get it now. Mourn and cry and pound your fists when things aren't going your way. But, when it's over, it's over and you're onto something new...

Cry. Then move on. Yes...that sounds about right.



Monday, July 1, 2013

A Day at the Waterslide

We don't have a pool. This has always been fine by me, as I grew up in a household with a which part of my weekly chores with my sister was to clean said pool. Let's just say that we were both scarred by the pool cleaning enough to never have owned a pool (either of us, actually). However, now that I know about pool cleaning services and ridiculously hot, San Fernando Valley days, I long for the days of a pool.

Enter the local Aquatic Center. Clean, pristine, open to the public and a $2.00 entry fee with a library card. I've been taking Christian there a few times each summer on those insanely hot days to cool off for awhile. The only down side of this gorgeous pool-mecca, has been the presence of this large, looming, fun-tempting waterslide that exists at the pool. Every year has been met with disappointment or even tears, as Christian learns he is not old enough, nor tall enough to ride it.

This year...since on or about May 7th (Christian's 6th Birthday), he has announced, "This year I get to ride the waterslide, because THIS year I'm SIX." I can't quite remember all of the rules and figure his mind is like a steel trap about these kinds of things, so I've probably said Okay, then it will be really fun when the pool opens in June this year!

Let's skip ahead to June. Aquatic center opens. The days get hot and I say to Christian, "Daddy's home and can stay with Elijah while he's napping. What do you say to a quick getaway to the pool?" We pack up our sunblock and towels and head to the pool. On the ride over, Christian reminds me, "I'm SIX now, so I'm gonna be able to ride the waterslide."  I say, "Are you sure, sweetie? Most of the other things at this pool have an age 7 requirement?"  He says, emphatically, "I'm SURE. The guy last year told me." Okie Dokie...

We park and head to the pool entrance. There is a giant bulletin board at the entrance of the pool, which I stop to read, thinking that maybe we will take advantage of some of the swim lessons we did like last year, and there I see big bold letters: MUST BE SEVEN YEARS OLD (and 48") TO RIDE THE WATERSLIDE. My heart sinks. I say to Christian, "Oh, no. Sweetie, look- it says here (and I point out the sign) that you must be 7 to ride the waterslide."

He crumples. Literally just crumples before my eyes. And this is it. The defining moment, right? Or maybe it's not...where I decide, do I tell him to lie or watch his heart break until next year. My mind flips through all of the possibilities while my child cries. I stoop to kneel in front of him and say softly, "Sweetie. Look at me. I know you're not seven, but you are tall enough to ride this waterslide. Maybe...just here...we could say you are seven." He stops crying, looks at me, and says, "Really?" I choose my words carefully and say, "Yes, really. We are lying by saying that, but the other rule is also that you need to be tall enough and you are. I know that you will be safe, which is why they have the rule." His eyes light up, "Okay. You are the best Mom ever." (Insert major feelings of guilt here.) We enter the building and I step up to the window to pay. The woman asks Christian, "How old are you?" And he freezes. I laugh and say, "He's seven." (cringe.) We enter the pool area and his eyes dance as we near the slide. "Can I go, Mom?!" I say, "Go! Have fun!"

He walks up to stand in line and the lifeguard says to him, "How old are you?" I think I hear, "Five!  Um...I mean, SEVEN!! Seven." The lifeguard measures him against the 48" sign and allows him to climb the stairs to the slide. The sounds I hear next are those of pure joy, perhaps similar to what I will be hearing in the bowels of Hell where I will reside for encouraging my son to tell a lie...I hear giggles and ecstatic screams and then, there he is. Plunging out of the bottom of the slide with a giant grin and an energy he can't contain. Even the lifeguard smiles. Christian runs over to me, echoed by the sound of the lifeguard yelling, "No running!!" He says, "Mom!! That was the best thing EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can I go again??!"

I'm a rule follower. I've stood by in my life watching others break "the rules" left and right and just cursed them for not following along. It was a moment for me. I know that my ethics and values and desire to "rule follow" will still be passed along to my kids. Maybe it wasn't "right", but for once, even though it was "wrong", it felt like the right thing to do. Let him play. He's tall enough. He's capable enough. And I believe him when he says that someone told him last year that you have to be six. (They were probably wrong, but I don't doubt he was told that.)

It's not a forever lie. It's a day at the waterslide. It's one day where I got to make my son's dreams come true. It's my hope that as the years pass, he won't be left with the lesson that I taught him to lie, but instead that when it was safe and it didn't hurt anybody else, I was the Mom who let him have his dream. I was the Mom who let him ride that waterslide, when know one else would have.

Yeah...I'm okay with that.  

And I'll even be generous enough to assume that the two other kids who FOUR, and waaay shorter than 48"...had Moms with the same intentions...