Tuesday, September 23, 2008
letting him choose
(for this carnival, if somewhat belatedly. Sorry, folks!)
When the Eldest was just a lump in my tum, happily kicking my bladder, the Man and I discovered his lullabye. By Trout Fishing in America, it was an old song sung sweetly - and we fell in love.
Close your eyes and listen to my song
Lullabye, sleep the whole night long
The cricket's serenade echoes softly through the night
The clouds are on the lake and the moon is shining bright.
Don't worry, I'll be beside you should you call -
just go to sleep now, close your eyes.
We sang this song to each other, to my tummy, and when the Eldest was born (okay, extracted), I listened to the Man singing this to our tiny baby, while the docs sewed me up. Eight days later, we sang it to the Eldest while he got his first IV, his first transfusion, and his first emergency CT scan. I'll be beside you should you call, we sang, and we were.
One diagnosis later, we went home, and watched our cozy nest fill up with clotting meds and needles. On the table, the sharps container glowed.
Dragons in the sky, flying with their golden treasure
If you catch their eye, wishes granted more than you can measure
But could this kid fly? What kind of treasures could he have? Now, we laugh at the very question, but at the time, we couldn't imagine. So we settled for the end of the verse:
I'll be beside you should you fall,
just go to sleep now, close your eyes.
And we were. With cushions and knee pads and foam, in a caricature of the anxious parent. In fact, learning to let the Eldest fall was one of our greatest challenge as new - and newly diagnosed - parents. Letting him fall came to mean trust and knowledge for us: we had to know that he could fall without long-term harm, and we had to trust the three of us to figure out how to handle the aftermath. But we kept our promise: if he fell, we would be there for him. If he needed us.
We learned our lesson well, I think (I flatter myself), but the Eldest is still learning his. On the occasions when he remembers to be afraid, he's extremely good at it. Play soccer? no problem. Climb on the playground structures? sure. But something new comes with a high barrier: I don't know it, so I am reserving the right to be afraid of it, the Eldest tells us. Left to his own devices, half of the old question lingered: would this kid fly - or would he tie himself to the ground? The treasures, it turns out, were part of the answer.
This summer's adventures in circuses - and specifically, flying - was a much debated challenge to the Eldest's self-made boundaries. The Man was uncertain, I was uncertain, but we could both see the opportunity shining in front of the kid. On the days when the Eldest bounced home from circus camp, the Man glowed. I flew! The Eldest would tell us, and spout details about the trapeze. On the mornings when the Eldest huddled, refusing to go to camp, the Man glowered at me. By the time we were done, I felt like I was the one hooked into the trapeze safety lines, and being hauled up and down.
When camp ended, the Eldest turned to me and said, wistfully, Couldn't we have another class? I stared for a bit, and then sat down and turned to a friend. Moral support and friendship would help here, I thought - but she was ahead of me. Swiftly, she put together a group of three of the Eldest's classmates: the four of them would have a lesson together. Chattering, joking and irritating each other by turns, they did.
That day, the Eldest swung happily on the small trapeze (a mere 7 or so feet off the ground). I watched his body direct the swing, moving confidently and comfortably at that height. Well, now, I thought. That's new. The Eldest dropped down, unhooked his harness and stopped cold. He stared at the ladder going up, up to the big trapeze (goodness knows how high, but the net was above arm's length). He walked over to me, his face calm.
I'm going to try the ladder, he told me. I hugged him.
And he did. Up and up he climbed, making it about three-quarters of the way up. I could hardly watch him, afraid that he'd stop, be scared and the fear would overwhelm his courage. He stopped most of the way up, stared at the top and went back down. Holy crap, I thought. Now that's beyond new.
He came back to me, and I hugged him again. I'm so proud of you! I whispered. That was not easy, to try that. He pulled back a little. I'm going to get comfortable on the ladder first, he told me, and then I'll try standing on the board. And THEN, I'm going to try that trapeze. I let go of the kid before I started dripping on him, and wished him luck.
That day, he made it most of the way up, stopping four rungs from the top. A staffer leaned alarmingly far to high-five him, and he came down glowing. Slightly hoarse, I drove him home. We were nearly home when he spoke up. Can I do that again? I blinked and grabbed for my best poker face. Let me see what I can do.
On the last day, the Eldest made it up the ladder. He touched the board and thought it over. I think that's enough, he said. I tried not to crack his ribs. Well done, love, I told him.
On our way home, the Eldest politely listened to me enthuse. You have power in your body, I told him, and the Eldest nodded. You can use that power to kick a soccer ball, or to climb a ladder or even to use a needle. The Eldest made an I'm-listening noise. But when you are scared, it's easy to forget that you have power, isn't it? All you can think, or feel or see is scared. The Eldest's face lit up. Yes! That's exactly it!
Today, kid, I went on, I watched you push past being scared and remember your power. You had it on the little trapeze, and you had it when you chose to try the ladder. That's very hard to do, and I'm proud of you.
Quiet now, I listened to the Eldest thinking. He didn't fall, and he didn't fly either. But he did let himself reach for the sky.
It was more than enough.
tired of trapezes? No worries. For a change of pace, try getting your ears pinned back over here. So, are you pro-choice, pro-life, or pro-birth? Julia did a beautiful job on an often bitter topic - but what else is new?