Sunday, April 26, 2009

Separation Anxiety

"My red is coming out!!!!" Toby yells. His alarm is always disproportionate to the actual trauma, so I have no idea if its a hangnail or a severed arm when he summons my highly qualified medical self to come rescue him. I nonchalantly grab a napkin and take it to the living room where he and Greg have all 87 parts of a ceiling fan sprawled out on the floor. Toby is sobbing and flipping me the bird. Well, not the actual bird, but he is sobbing and pointing my way with his injured middle finger.

"Is it a paper cut?" I ask because I forgot my go-go-gadget magnifier for microbooboo locating. "Mo-o-o-omm-y-y" he opens his mouth into such a wide cry that his lips barely reconnect for the m's. "I think your gonna make it buddy," I say. Greg returns to his screwdriverish super-project while I rinse Toby's finger in the kitchen sink.

Our underconcern makes him anxious-- as if some day he will puncture an artery or catch on fire and his parents might keep on weed-eating or browning turkey meat while he bleeds to death on the kitchen tile.

This is the part of four that baffles me. At two, I knew I could scoop him up and hold him for just a skinned knee. It felt so right reassuring him, letting him cry it out however long he wanted. Now I waffle between coddling and indifference, searching for a proper balance that won't land him in therapy twenty years from now.

Even more perplexing is his simultaneous need for manhood. One minute he wants gauze wrapped around an indiscernible wound, and the next he is following his dad up the ladder with a real screwdriver in his fist. I furiously dig through his plastic tool set for a safer toy replica wondering who to blame for his inconsistency, him or me?!

What I want is to have him both ways. I want him to be tough, independent, capable and I also want him to need me. I let him go with a wary unclenching of hands, then give him whiplash yanking his little self right back. Independence requires something of both of us that still feels foreign. I know I should lead and encourage him, but that requires a hint of risk, of danger that I'm too afraid to allow. The nurturing part is so much easier.

I think this will be my battle always. Like in the book "Love You Forever" when the old mother crawls through her grown son's apartment window and rocks him while he sleeps. Everything about that page is disturbing and muddled. You want to yell through the watercolor "Cut the cord, lady!" But when you sit on the bed next to a pair of chubby, bare feet you can't very well cast blame. It'll take everything you have to keep your own feet from clambering up behind her.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What I Couldn't Say

Greg and I have important stuff to talk about. Probably. We are sitting at the kitchen table over tilapia, each of us throwing conversational paintballs in the vague vicinity of the other. Toby is sitting next to me unable to finish his nuggets because he "really needs to poop." Charlie's nuggets are squished into pancakes and one by one sailing down to the underchair netherworld where I don't even clean anymore.

"I mean it seems like a good idea, you know?" Greg says, but I don't know, because I have no clue what the idea was.

"Tell me what we are talking about again?" I say.

"Envelopes." He possibly said over Charlie who is pointing at the pantry yelling for I don't know what.

Toby stands next to his chair holding his pants and underwear. "Can you come wipe me?" he asks. Greg groans and follows him to the bathroom. I hurry to make Charlie some oatmeal.

And that is that. We regress to yelling our schedule essentials from one side of the house to the other.

"I have a paper due this weekend," he says.

"I have a meeting Sunday afternoon." I reply.

"I'm playing golf tomorrow. I won't be home until 7:00."

"I want to make an appearance at Jamie's make-up party."

This is the new us, the frazzled, noisy us, negotiating our independence like day traders. He is only in another room, but it feels further. I miss talking to him. I wonder if we'll ever stop bothering at all.

Later we load up the kids for a Sonic run. I look at Greg next to me in the car. He has a fresh hair cut. I like it. His face is tan from the golf course, making his green eyes more vivid. He boyishly taps the steering wheel to the Newsboys song from the radio. Once upon a time neither of us listened to music like this. It feels good watching him enjoy it, choosing to enjoy it, for the boys sake. He has substance. That is always what I liked about him.

I remember sipping a cherry limeade after school one afternoon, concealing my private obsession with the phone from my friends. Maybe Greg would call. Maybe he would invite me to a movie or to Harrigan's for cheese rolls. The very thought gave my life meaning. It was scary how much he meant to me. When I was with him, I called self-control from every continent of my soul to keep my hands from trembling.

What is so different now? It's been fifteen years since I met him at a basketball game somewhere in Oklahoma City. Fifteen years since my heart quit beating for mere life. Even though the boys are fighting behind us, even though our car smells like Sonic, even though we can't use actual words, when he turns to me and winks, I know why I bother trying. I know exactly why I bother.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Running Mama Rules

It has been almost three years since my first run with Jerri. In that time...

We have covered more miles than lie between Houston and New York City.

We have talked over 500 hours.

We have resolved the following issues: the best school for Jerri's girls to attend, the name of my second son, what we want to be when we grow up (Jerri=esthetician, Andi=writer), how to hide vegetables in non-yucky food, a color for my living room walls, what to buy our husbands for Christmas, how long one can run while pregnant (20 weeks until your back gives out!), our hormone imbalances, the best discipline techniques at every age level (up to ten anyway...), and of course our God, how He is the center, the everything, even when we just don't get Him at all.

While I was pregnant with my second son Jerri ran slower with me until I couldn't run anymore. Then Jerri walked with me until I couldn't walk either. Then Jerri swam with my pouting, super-sized self until I almost gave birth while we ate lunch one afternoon.

We have laughed and run, wept and run, been silent and run, prayed and run. We have prayed so hard that we stopped running, laid hands on each other and cried.

This is why I love running. On the quiet, dark road I am not alone. I have the sweetness of other feet thumping beside me, around every bend, over every hill. One pair wears worn Asics with double-knotted laces. The other pair I can't see, but He is always in front showing us where to go.

The Running Mama Rules:
Running Mamas Have Little Feet Who Need Them Around
  • Never wear headphones on the road. (You cannot hear cars.)
  • Run against traffic. (We have dodged into the ditch many times when a driver didn't see us.)
  • Be blinky. (We use little finger lights they sell at Halloween. They strobe!!)
  • Wear bright clothes. (We have reflective belts and arm bands. If you don't feel like a dork, you are not visible enough.)
  • Carry a phone.
  • Never run alone.