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.