Somewhere, I dropped the ball. At the crucial moment when it curved through the summer air and made its descent toward my waiting hands, I must have blinked or sneezed or let my gaze be caught by something shiny in the corner, because it dropped.
Oh, it dropped hard. It bounced, it tumbled down the field and left me here, stumbling over myself, tripping over my children, my husband, my workload, grabbing at thin air trying to win one for my team.
This is my summer.
I’m fumbling and bumbling and found myself standing in the parking lot of The Christmas Tree Shop with my seven year old, whom I had to drag from the store for his disobedience – At. Wits. End.
I did not have the energy or will to yell. I only held his hand and walked. As he tried to wriggle from my grasp, I found myself wishing that we had parked further away. I needed more steps before me, I needed more time to figure out exactly what on earth I was doing. There, in the moment in that parking lot, but also here in my life, in my ever-evolving relationship with my son.
This summer has been the story of Alex changing and challenging. This has been the story of him, sitting at the table, writing list after list (and me coming to understand that you can’t write words on someone’s heart for them.)
Alex, I began as he buckled himself into his seat. I remember when you were first born. You were a teeny tiny little baby with a round little face. Normally, stories of himself as a baby draw his gaze and capture his attention. Last night, he stared downward, unblinking, as if to say, you can talk, but I don’t have to listen.
I breathed deeply and continued, more for my benefit than his. I needed to remind myself.
Did you know that I was terrified? Eyes still down, no response. Well, I was. I remember when they left you alone with me for the first time and I had to feed you all by myself. I remember looking down at your little face and feeling the weight of the world in my arms. What if I messed up?
And, do you know what? Alex blinked, his eyes flickered up for the smallest fraction of a moment. You helped me out. You ate, and ate, and ate. You grew, you came home and we did just fine.
Alex looked at me, finally. And again, when you were a little older and couldn’t sleep with your teething pains, you wouldn’t settle for anything. I sang Jingle Bells in the middle of July and rocked your sweaty little body in my arms until you finally put your head down we were both able to rest.
You put your head down, you helped me out.
Alex was listening. I was listening. I think we’re just going through more growing pains this summer. You’re growing and changing again, because that’s your job. We just need to work together to get through it. And we will, we do. But you need to work with me. You’re my first, and every time you grow, I do too. Can you bear with me?
A humid, mid-August, in a parking lot, breakthrough. Yes.
Was this the feeling of me, at last, grass stained and beaten and sore, finally, finally, pulling that tumbling, runaway ball to my chest?
Alex straightened up in his chair and picked at some dirt on his kneecap. Does this mean no ice cream?
Yes, I’m sorry, but no ice cream tonight.
And THAT, is where he cried. Oh, he wailed, lamented, repented, assured me over and over that he would either always behave or never behave again, depending on how much my head shook.
Ball. Dropped. Lost down the imaginary field of my mind. That sucker is gone.
Vinnie and the rest of our family came back to the car. We drove home, listening to the wails of our oldest son, sobbing over ice cream, like he hadn’t just had a Popsicle three hours earlier, or a Klondike Bar the night before – as if his life had always been void of treats and always would be.
This morning, I’m uncomfortable. I’m still fumbling and dizzy and missing that small sweet baby who fed easily and who only needed Jingle Bells to find peace on my shoulder.
But, I know, I have had my moments of growth and clarity in the past, and I will again.
August can’t last forever.