Granted, it was at pre-school. Finn married Stella, a brown-haired sweetheart of a three-year old with a older brother named Gene who is five. The whole thing happened this afternoon and somehow, Finn ended up with the ring. I know this much because when I showed up today to pick him up, there was this little copper circle on his middle finger. He was holding it tightly, his hand a fist.
He didn’t really want to talk about it, his wife that is. He wanted to do a “job” – that’s Montessori speak for a special learning activity – but we couldn’t because he’d already lost the privilege to do a job way back last night when he kept slugging his older sister, my six-year old daughter. He’d lost the privilege to do jobs, or pick out a book at bedtime, or pick out a special toy in the morning; I had been at a work event and by the time I got home, my husband informed me that he’d had to strip the kid of pretty much everything but his underwear after the night he’d had.
This boy, a love of my life, he is giving us a run for our money.
He is smart and charming and handsome. He’s got a smile that would melt your heart at 100 yards. He can whistle. He can write words. And do simple math. He loves animals. He’s funny. He’s sociable with everyone. Loves parties and dancing. He’ll sit for hours with his 87-year old great grandmother and dance and sing for her, or just do a puzzle over and over. He loves tiny things and builds elaborate art installations, ones with real thought and structure and imagination. He skips. He pretends he’s a frog. When his sister was crying tonite, he sidled over to her sweetly with a little square chip from the Scrabble game, an “E” and handed it to her: “For you, Reese. An ‘E’ for you.”
Because he knew it would make her feel better and it did.
He is also the boy who argues with every single thing we say. His heart is NOT beating. He is NOT hungry. He does NOT like pizza. He does NOT want to get dressed. Or comb his hair. Or get in the bath. Or get out of the bath. He doesn’t want to share. Or be shared with. It’s his turn. It’s not his turn. There is so very much angry crying. Lots of stomping of feet and breathing loudly out through his nostrils; a tiny, mad dragon in Converse, stomping on my hardwood floors. Then a moment later, he skips by:
“Look at what I made, Mama! It’s a tower! It’s an interesting house! Look at my tiny things!”
“I love you, Mama.”
Looking up at me, all curly blond hair and long eyelashes. And I am disarmed, not ready for the next meltdown over who got their teeth brushed first, who got to pick out which book. And I try to remember: when did all this start? Sure, he’s always been spirited, my boy, always an entertainer, a show man, a fiery love child. But this? A cantankerous grump, I don’t know when he moved in.
Of course I blame myself. I went back to work six months ago. He probably is acting out, I think. He needs more love, more time, more vegetables. Maybe it’s his diet: too many carbohydrates. Maybe we’re giving him too many Cheerios. Or too little sunshine.
I know that my husband and I give our children every drop of love in our hearts; Chris is the best father a kid could have. I know that we send them to loving schools. Surround them in a modest but warm house filled with books and good toys. Play all kinds of music. Don’t watch too much TV. Eat dinner as a family every night. Have dance parties in the living room, just us. We sing to them. We rock them. We hold them. They are the reason we exist. The whole point is the four of us and they know it. They also know that the world outside the four of us exists and that’s it our responsibility to help, as much as we can. To care beyond our four walls. We give them the world and ask them to love it well.
I can only hope it is enough. I can only hope my sweet angel, my little boy finds his sunshine again. That if what he needs is to test the boundaries to know they are there, that we can be strong enough to hold them up, even as our hearts are breaking just a little. We wait for some light to shine through.
Chris says that I just don’t remember: Reese was like this at three also. Intense. Feisty. Argumentative. What?, I say, I can’t believe it. Don’t remember it. But then again, what I had for lunch today is foggy. So there. Maybe there’s hope.
I know this:
Tonight, Finn wanted Chris to do bedtime, not me. But then he asked if I would just lay with him until Dad got there and I did; he buried his face and his favorite blanket into my shoulder, his breath hot on my cheek. I felt his arm slide over across my chest, hugging me, both of us breathing, together. And I didn’t question a thing.