“Write hard & clear about what hurts.” -Ernest Hemingway
And this is where I am, after this week. I’m not feeling very funny. I’m feeling tired, physically, mentally, and emotionally. So hold on, because this is what hurts right now.
If you’ve ever met my son (or simply read my personal Facebook page) you know he is a force to be reckoned with. He is larger than life. He can entertain a room with ease. He is fueled by the laughter of a crowd. He can befriend just about anyone, anywhere. We walked into a waiting room just the other day and while I was checking in, 10 seconds after we arrived, I overheard him chatting up the other kid in the waiting room. He just plopped himself down next to this kid’s chair and started talking. He is an absolute delight to watch in action.
Except when he’s not.
Because sometimes he’s really, REALLY not. This week we had a lot of the not. He was “that kid” several times this week. And I know, he’s 4. Four year olds just suck sometimes. But with his big personality and big self come big emotions with huge highs and deep lows. And when things explode, it takes everything from deep within to hang on through them. As I told my husband this evening, “It’s like being on a roller coaster with him.”
And sometimes I just want off. Just briefly. Just long enough to get my bearings again. To find right side up again. But there are times (like this past week) where the ride just never seems to stop. We just go, and we go, and we go. We crank slowly up hills, where I can feel the drop coming ahead, but I feel powerless to stop it, and I know he does too. And then we slam down towards the ground, at a neck breaking speed, usually screaming the whole way down. Then, in between the hills and the drops, we have these utterly beautiful moments where it is all mind numbingly fun and I know I’ve got a ridiculous smile plastered on my face and I remember why I really do love this ride.
He and my daughter couldn’t be more opposite. Where he is big and loud and boisterous, she is quiet and thoughtful and more delicate with her actions and words. My daughter amazes me frequently with just how soft and truly sweet she is. My son can be sweet too, but it’s always in a much more “in your face” way, often catching you off guard, just like everything he does. These are the plateaus on the ride, the parts that are just fun, the parts that don’t feel like they’re going to break me. The parts where I don’t want to scream from frustration with him. A friend of mine asked me a few months ago, “Do you find yourself getting more frustrated with the kid who is more like you?” And I do. He is so much like me. While on one hand that means I more easily understand him, on the other, I also know where the roller coaster has derailed for me. He’s getting to the point now where he can voice his frustration with himself sometimes, which stings me in a deep way, since I’ve had such similar thoughts about my own personality and mind. I think any parent simply wants their child to be more, have more, and struggle less than they themselves did. And that’s why he frustrates me, why he can get under my skin. Because I want him to do big things and be spared the pain of the crashes, even though I know that’s not a practical wish. After all, our biggest opportunities for growth are not in our successes but rather in how we stand up after a fall, and it’s my job to teach him, to show him, what it means to get back up and do it with grace. I have no doubt he will crash over, and over, and over, because that’s just the nature of his personality. He’s a risk taker. He’s Nemo, swimming out towards the boat to “touch the butt”. (I originally wanted to compare him to Simba, but seeing as how Simba’s antics result in the actual death of a parent, perhaps I’ll refrain from that comparison.) He is constantly on the go, on the move, surveying his surroundings, noticing and narrating what seem to the average observer like the most mundane things, because he sees so much in everything.
We were at an event a couple of weeks ago where there were big building blocks at a booth for kids to build whatever they wanted. J immediately dove in and began directing where he wanted everything to go. The lady in charge watched him interacting and finally said about him, “Future CEO over there. He’s going to run his own show.”
And that’s exactly it. He takes every ounce of my strength some days, and some nights really, and it’s easy to stew in the negatives, the hard stuff, but I have to remind myself that what is incredibly difficult to wrangle in a 4-year-old boy with the energy of the Energizer Bunny will do him favors down the road.
He knows what he wants.
He says what he means.
He knows where he wants to go.
He’s driven by a need for perfection.
He will move mountains. He will make the earth quake. He will do big things.
And in the meantime, I’m just going to hang on and try to enjoy this ride and remind myself that God and the universe knew what was up when I was given these two small people. My yin and my yang.