Listening With One's Heart
A single-dad friend of ours had brought his daughter over for a playdate. He and Joe were commenting on the drying haircut... "Now he looks like Thomas Dolby" said my husband.
"She Blinded Me With Science". echoed our friend.
"More like 'He Blinded Me With Whining'" I butted in, setting the kettle onto the stove for a big pot of tea for us.
Fact of the matter-- we are on Day 7 now of WhineFestAthon. The Flying Ants that appeared for two days, threatening him with their mere presence (nevermind that they don't bite) have kept him afraid of working in the garden, which sucks big time for me. I've still peas to get into the ground. I didn't see a bug anywhere yesterday, but he refused to go out. Things are slowly improving, but wow! I think I get a trophy for keeping my cool this last week. A couple times I've had to "go take a break, because I'm all done with having whining company". This as he was assembling a puzzle, holding the piece that should go into a place, looking at it, and then grabbing something completely incongruous and trying to connect it incorrectly, with a soundtrack of "Unnnnhhhhhhh! IT WON'T WORK HOW I LIKE!!!"
This was when I needed to go out of the room and stare at a wall and wonder if maybe being a little hard of hearing might work to my advantage. I've thought recently about hearing aids, but now wonder if the opposite would be more beneficial to my sanity-- if I could just opt for silence instead, sometimes.
I'm being patient because I know there are some deep-seated things going on. He's turning four soon, as I've mentioned before, and this is fairly common. He's also had some big stuff come up-- a younger sibling of a playmate at his preschool unexpectedly died, and the children are processing this at school as they play. We've talked about how animals and people have their time on earth, and we've always held to the line that people live a longer time than cats and dogs. This event, the death of the baby, was not in keeping with what we had told him previously, and my only answer to him is still "I don't know why he died. His body stopped working."
"We don't know, honey. I do know, though, that you are fine and healthy and we love you and you are going to live a long, long time, just like Mama and Daddy."
Is this a false reassurance? Maybe yes, maybe no. Is this hopefully going to reduce some of his anxiety? I'm hoping so. It's also time to find some good books on the subject, one comes to mind which discusses how there is a life time for every living thing, and a time when it dies, and that this is somehow beautifully intertwined to the order of the universe.
Keeping all this in mind, I have more patience for my son than I would on the average day. More compassion and empathy. We are still all figuring this out. Lessons regarding death are more welcome when they come through emotionally-removed natural expressions such as insects, plants and flowers. These closer, more personal lessons are deeply conflicting and bring this crisis of understanding into close-up view. I can't pretend to know what my son needs to learn from this, or needs to hear, all I can do is give him lots of hugs and snuggles and lap time when he asks for them. What I can do is not dismiss the pain and upset he's wrestling with: growing, a new stage of independence, and then this event which makes him need us all the more. I'm trying to be present with him in this strange space of his life, to just be strong and reliable and empathetic. The terror at the flying ants is symbolic, a stand in for something less tangible and so abstract-- how can a child of not-yet-four wrap his head around a mystery adults still ponder, sometimes with deep fear?
So we go forward. I might be blinded and deafened by the whining, but my heart isn't impaired. All I can do is love on him as much as I can, and take a break to stare at the wall from time to time, knowing I'm just doing the best I know how.