It’s hard, being six. Especially when you have a big sister who assumes the role of ‘mom’ in any and all circumstances, and when your dad is flying all over the world, and you feel like the only boy in the world.
I took the kids to the park today. Our son’s classmate and his best buddy C. was hosting a final play date–C. is moving this week. My husband is in Asia, it’s the last day of Spring Break, his best friend is moving… it was going to be a weird afternoon.
He (and his sister) had a great time. Watching our boy play with other boys, as boys do–roughhousing, shoving, falling, laughing, asserting themselves, yelling–it’s refreshing. (Watching our daughter manage the relative chaos: comforting.) But it was soon time to go.
We had to eat dinner. We then had to go home, clean up, settle in, and prepare for school the next day. I mentioned all this as we said our goodbyes to C.
We drove on to have dinner out–an end-of-break hurrah since Daddy’s away. We crossed a parking lot, and my son would not take my hand. He usually does. But he would not. We sat down where the server seated us. He could barely look at me. I asked him, “Are you angry with me?” I do this, you see. If I can tell they’re angry with me, I ask them to share why, so that we can address whatever I did, or whatever they perceived I did.
He nodded yes, he was in fact angry with me. My daughter and I (mostly my daughter) then peppered him with questions, trying to figure out what it was I did. (Is he mad because Mom won’t let him play Minecraft on a school night? Is it because she wouldn’t let him have a second cupcake?) “No” to all questions, nothing by way of an explanation. He was immovable. I asked my daughter to let it drop. Our food came, and suddenly he looked across the table and tried to speak.
“It’s just that…” and his voice broke. He didn’t want to cry in the restaurant.
“You don’t have to tell me, honey. It’s okay, just eat your dinner.” He did.
The food seemed to lift his spirits (obviously–two hours of running in a park with only a cupcake for sustenance is bound to make anybody cranky) but not quite enough. He was still pretty blue as we left.
We got in the car. Buckled up, closed the doors. And then:
“I don’t wanna go to school tomorrow and there’s nothing you can do about it… waaaaaah!” And there was a wail, a wail like you’ve never heard. This boy was in some serious despair.
“You’re mad at me because I can’t make it not a school day tomorrow?”
I tried so hard not to laugh.
I turned into our neighborhood and offered little: “There’s so much we can’t do. I can’t make it not a school day. I can’t make Daddy be here, and not in Asia. I can’t make things stay the same. I just can’t. It’s okay to be mad at me. You should be. Usually I can make things better. But I just can’t this time. Sometimes things are just hard and yucky. But soon, they won’t be. Sometimes things get easier on their own.”
He cried and moaned… He sobbed in the shower. I tucked him in and he was still pretty mad at me but very politely and sweetly declined my offer of an extra blanket.
My daughter came by later and talked with me about what she’s learning in math, unit fractions and obtuse angles and measurements and whether she’ll make it into the fourth grade. She’s a thoughtful, conscientious girl who wonders about her own feelings.
I told her that I thought her brother was still mad when he went to bed.
“I think he’ll forget all about it when he sleeps, Mom. He was just really tired.”
We’re all just really tired. Tired of all those things that just have to get easier on their own. Things that we can’t make better.