"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.
3 weeks ago