Monday, August 10, 2009

Can my two-year old understand me?

[Previously published for sfgate.com/moms]

Mikey is going through a very frustrating developmental period for me. He is unhappy mostly everywhere except home. And at home, I can't even finish unloading the dishwasher before he says, "Mama come." He needs my full attention all the time. I really enjoy hanging out with him but lately it's been difficult. I didn't realize how drained a felt, until Mikey's papa came home tonight, and I scurried off into the office and closed the door.

I was hoping for a little peace. My goal was three minutes. I didn't even make it three minutes alone before Mikey started screaming for me on the other side of the door. I heard Zack saying, "Let's go play in the yard." But, by that point Mikey was so worked up nothing would satisfy him apart from being in his mommy's arms. I opened the door and grabbed my keys. I needed out. I felt trapped and I needed some space. My decision didn't help the volume of screaming and Zack didn't know what to do, so he followed me down to the garage with our wailing child.

At this point, Mikey was so red and horse from crying that I couldn't leave him. Nonetheless, I was still upset and needed a walk. So, I took him and marched off into the street with no idea where I was going. Zack stood on the steps with no shoes and the whole house open, "Where are you going?" he asked. I turned to look but didn't respond. I just didn't know.


I held Mikey tight in my arms and walked in silence. Tears dripped down from under my sunglasses. When we reached the Panhandle park, I let Mikey down to walk. He reached for my hand and held it as we crossed the bike lane. Mikey never wants to hold my hand when we walk. He swats it away every time. But tonight it was his hand that held mine. "He is holding my hand to comfort me," I thought.

His hand transmitted so much love that I came out of my depressed state and into the present moment. It was a warm San Francisco Friday night. A woman sat on the grass with her newborn baby. Dogs ran after balls. Crows cawed loudly in the trees. Bikes zipped back and forth on the path. The warm offshore breeze dried my tears.

We continued to walk hand-in-hand without talking. Mikey would pick up a leaf or an acorn and show it to me. I would nod or smile. Just as soon as he'd let go of my hand he'd say, "hand, hand," and want it back. But this time, it wasn't for him, it was for me.

He maintained a steady walk. Normally, he can barely walk up our small street in under an hour and getting him to walk up the stairs to our apartment is about as frustrating as it gets. But in that moment, he walked. We stopped briefly to watch the basketball game and the skateboarders, and then we headed out of the park and back up the hill to the house.

We passed the newly painted orange Buddhist meditation house and Mikey looked up at me and said, "Orange." When I looked back into his eyes they weren't the eyes of a two-year old. He held my gaze with the most beautiful smile that I have ever seen. For a brief moment, my son knew more than I. He was all knowing, comforting, loving, and still. Mikey held my hand all the way home and he didn't let me go.

Zack caught up to us on the bike just before we turned onto our street. I ran a lavender bath as soon as I walked in the door. Mikey climbed in and Zack leaned over the side of the tub and washed him while I relaxed and enjoyed their company.

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