And Begin Again
Theo is our early riser. Every morning he is up before any of us. He is quiet and self sufficient and seems to enjoy this time to himself. He is always in one of two places when I come to him in the mornings. Upstairs, hunched over in a swath of east-facing sunlight, building with Legos. Downstairs on the couch, curled up in a blanket, the low din of a cartoon and soft light surrounding him. This morning, however, I was the first one up. I looked for Theo and found him sound asleep still, in a pile of soft sheet and quilt. Unusual.
I finally had to wake him up. He wrapped around me and I carried him down the stairs, instantly drawing memories of carrying him when he was no bigger than a sack of flour; a small monkey; a big monkey - always the most beautiful weight perched on my hip. Palpate the mama-notch on the outer part of the pelvis where the head of the femur rests in the hip joint, where you've been reshaped. Just above there. You will feel it.
The next thirty minutes were a hot mess. I listened from downstairs and bit my lip, my hands wrapped around my just made hot cup of espresso and steamed milk, trying to find prayer. Eric was rushing Theo, maddening him. Theo was resisting. When I couldn't take anymore of the battle, I walked upstairs to find Theo standing in the middle of his room in his underwear. The curtains still hadn't been drawn. It was dark and rivers of tears ran down his face and arms. They needed to be in the car six minutes ago. Eric gave me a dirty look as I wrapped my arms around Theo, and I'm sure I gave him the same look back. We do this too much: take bad care of each other when we're stressed, in the moment. And we stress our kids when the line of respect and following direction is blurred. None of which I am proud of.
I held Theo's body and he let me as I wondered if he was not feeling well or if it was just a case of oversleeping and a rushed start when a slow start was needed. And then in one breathless sentence he sobbed into my chest. Sometimes I just can't do this I don't want to get up eat breakfast drink a glass of milk brush my teeth and comb my hair get dressed drink more milk go to school all day I'm always being rushed it's too much.
I listened and agreed with him because he's absolutely right. There is nothing more or less to it, especially when you are seven. A part of me wanted to say, stay home today because I feel the stale air right now too. Because as we came downstairs this morning with you in my arms, I saw us in the mirror and my heart lurched right back to when you were so little and we went on walks to the sand park and I kissed your scraped knee and fed you cheddar bunnies in little plastic dishes. I miss you. Every day.
I helped him dress. We found his second favorite pair of socks. He was still crying. We went downstairs and gathered his things. He let me kiss his combed hair instead of the usual when he turns his head to the side and tilts it slightly up so I can kiss his cheek, safely keeping his hair in place. He let me hug him just a little bit longer than usual.
I watched him walk away. A heavy emptiness filled me and weighed me down. Inside, where moments ago I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and filled water bottles, the emotional dust lingered. I began cleaning the kitchen. I scrubbed last nights pots and pans and saw Eric's dirty look again. I muttered and cussed. I cleaned my espresso machine. Filled it with filtered water and fresh grounds for a new cup. And then, over the kitchen sink, with a jackhammer blasting the street just outside of the open kitchen window, fitting, I surrendered.
This is where we restart. As my yoga teacher would say, this is where we soften the heart.