PART ONE IN WHAT IS BOUND TO BECOME A SERIES
(The real post is down below, I just had to blabber a little first.)
In case you can't tell, I've been a little whacko lately. J is stressed at work, and I am stressed at home = not the best combination. No, we're not fighting, just emotionally and physically exhausted.
A really BIG BOSS came to town, and this was only the second time they'd met. Their first meeting had been during a massive reorganization, complete with job reassignments for everyone and even a few layoffs. J is brutally honest, which is both one of his best and worst qualities. He'd been afraid ever since that first meeting that what he'd said could have been taken the wrong way. (It wasn't.) Then, a bunch of disgruntled customers came into town to bitch. They didn't want solutions or answers, just to give everyone they could a really hard time. J is not on the project, but he's been sort of a mentor to the person who is. And this person just graduated from college last December and is not comfortable with public speaking, especially with an angry mob. So one of the bosses asked J to drop in and lend a helping hand. And he tried. But they were determined not to leave happy, so it was a lost cause, and the solutions they need are on their end, not J's company. Frustrating all around.
Me? Keeping the Cracker happy lately has been a challenge. It's too hot to play outside for any length of time, which is where he longs to be, and my bag of indoor tricks is getting old. Our living conditions? I know that no one expects me to have a perfectly clean house with a toddler home all day, but it doesn't mean I don't want one. While I'm usually pretty proud of how well I manage (using naps and nighttime so that my son doesn't think I'm a maid who just also happends to be his mother) it just isn't enough lately. My house es un disastre total, the laundry is piling up to record levels, and I need to go shopping. Me time? Yeah, I need more of that, but I also long for more Cracker time, as if that were even possible. I put him in bed and then have to fight the urge to go back in and just spend a few more minutes.
Oh, did I mention that I'm PMSing? Big surprise there!
Which brings me to this post, which I've been meaning to write for a while now. I was semi-emotional before, but along with the pounds a few extra hormones stuck around after becoming a mother. J constantly teases me for finding the only heartwrenching story involving children on cable and upsetting myself. Yes, I am now one of those chicks who occasionally needs a good cry. Well, there was nothing on cable the other night so my mysterious mind stepped up to the plate. I share with you now in hopes that once it's out there in the world I can let go a little.
We were visiting preschool a few weeks ago, having a grand old time. The Cracker and I were building a corral of blocks for "orses." We'd gone over to the play kitchen too to bring them back some snacks, and I was amazed that out of all the fake food to pick from, he'd decided on apples. Had I told him that horses liked apples? I really don't think so, but his choice didn't seem arbritrary. He told me that horses eat hay and apples...period. "Do cows eat apples?" I asked. No, just horses. And in that moment I was just so proud of him, because his whole life is about learning, whether the information comes from us or not, and he's so excited to get up each day so that he can learn more. Totally natural, I know, but still truly inspiring.
I couldn't help myself. I leaned over, grabbed him, gave him a big fat kiss on the cheek and told him "YOU are the COOLEST kid I know! I love you!" His whole body melted into one big smile. You could tell he knew I was proud of him, and he was oh so proud of himself too.
Just then, another little boy came over. For some reason, I've always had a bad feeling about this kid, which makes me feel like the most rotten adult ever for making snap judgements about a four year old. He looks right at the Cracker, locks eyes with him, and says "He's not cool. He's stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You can't be my friend. I don't like you."
My sweet baby's face dropped. Did he really understand it, the weight of those words? God I hope not. But I know that to some extent he did; he understands everything. In an instant our moment was stolen. You could see it in his face, even his eyes. Bewilderment. Sadness. Shame.
What I really wanted to say was "You're the one that's not cool. Nobody likes you. You're ugly and you're mother dresses you funny. Fuck off." Instead I said, "That's not true! He's very cool. Besides, you haven't gotten a chance to know him. He's just a lot younger than you" BUT HE SURE COULD TEACH YOU A LOT ABOUT MANNERS. This kid is not the cutest kid ever IMHO, and I really do think his mother dresses him funny, but now I'm just being mean.
The school is a Co-op, a very hippy dippy one. Parents take turns working in the classroom assisting the teachers. And his mother was there. And she heard the whole thing.
She was mortified. She came running over and after apologizing to us, gave him a stern lecture, and sent him to go sit off by himself. I hadn't made the mother/child connection until then, and I never would have guessed that this sweet, delightful woman was taking that monster home with her.
That's the thing about parenting. Every time you think you know what's coming, you get caught off guard.
Stick him in a group of little girls he knows and my Cracker is the life of the party. He has lots of little friends and many seem to naturally look to him to set the tone. He's not the biggest and he's not the oldest. Gosh darnit, he's just fun to be around! But get him into a group of kids he doesn't know, especially if there are more than 4, and he's brutally shy. He stands back and won't play until invited, and even then reserved would be a dramatic understatement. So with school, J and I had anticapated that the challenge would be making him feel comfortable not only with a bunch of kids he didn't already know, but a bunch of kids who already knew each other. (It's an all ages class, where the older ones help the little ones, and the Cracker is one of only two new students next year in a class of 12.)
When the kids went out to play, one of the teachers pulled me aside.
"Is Cracker okay?"
"He seems okay now."
"Just so you know, normally we would have stepped in, but since his mother was here..."
"Oh, I know." No doubts here.
"He's having some issues right now. We're having a bit of a struggle steering him back to a glass half full state of mind." And I got the feeling from the way she said it that the poor kid is going through something at home.
No matter how hard you try, there are things that you just can't protect them from. And while it's a terrible feeling, that's the real world. I just want to postpone it for him as long as I possibly can. Imagine going through life with the confidence of a toddler: never being embarassed or ashamed or worried about what other people are thinking. How liberating it must be. They do what they do and like what they like because they have no idea that others may not agree with them.
Once that innocence is gone, it's gone forever.