When I became a mother I was aware enough to realize that no matter how good my intentions are, I will eventually inflict a bushel of neuroses onto my children. I came to this realization after a conversation with my mother during which she was complaining that I seemed more independent and detached than she thought was healthy. She blamed herself because she didn't want me to be weak and vulnerable and so now she thinks she overcompensated and sent me swinging on the pendulum all the way to the other side.
And then there is the matter of genetics. Some of the children in our family who are from divided homes and haven't been able to spend much time with one parent or another still carry echoes of their missing parent with them -- with two it's their smile, with another two it is the shape of their fingers and a particular look in their eye, with another it's the way she wrinkles her nose. It is strange and disconcerting to see when I know these things come from deep within the genetic layers of us.
* * *
Two nights ago we went to a pro baseball game in "the Big City". At this particular ball park they have a section where you can pay a few bucks extra and your kids can go in and run madly from one bouncy-house to another until they pass out from exhaustion or vomit, whichever comes first. We let the kids go in and Rob and I took turns staying with Tristan, our youngest.
At one of the inflatable fun houses he got very tired and when he slid down this huge slide and finally reached the bottom he just didn't get up again. He had an ecstatic look on his face and gazed up to the roof of the house as if he were seeing angels come down to carry him away to an afterlife of nothing but whipped cream, cookies and strawberry milk. At the top of the slide a couple of big kids started yelling at him to move and finally it was obvious they were going to come down whether he moved or not. I said, "Tristan, you've got to get up and move out of the way."
He struggled his little body up out of the cloud of air-filled plastic and was trying to heave himself back out onto the pavement when two girls, much bigger than him, came down and pushed passed him, knocking him off his perfect cloud and down onto the hard surface. He began to cry. He stood up and looked over at me and I smiled and gave him the thumbs up and yelled, "You're AWESOME!" He blinked, then smiled and ran back to the front of the line.
The event was forgotten (except for a small psychotic moment in which I yelled at the girls when Tristan wasn't looking and told them to stop knocking down little boys half their size) and we played for another half hour until the game was over and it was time to leave.
All the way back to the car Tristan cried because he was tired and didn't want to walk anymore. It was a long, agonizing journey of cajoling "almost-theres" and finally he was in his car seat and buckled in.
As we pulled out of the parking lot he said from the dark back seat, "They knocked me down."
I said, "Mm-hmm. They sure did. But you're fine now." I told Rob briefly what had happened.
Tristan reiterated, "They knocked me down, Daddy."
Rob said, "Sorry about that, buddy. Did you have fun anyway?"
Tristan said, "Yeah, but they did it. They knocked me down."
"But you're okay now, right," Rob asked.
Tristan said, "I'm okay, but they knocked me down."
I covered my mouth and snickered quietly. We tried not to say anything in case it unleashed another torrent of accusations about the girls who knocked him down.
Then Julius started in, "I got knocked down too. This boy jumped on me and wrapped his arms and legs around me and knocked me to the ground."
I nodded. "Well, sometimes those big kids play rough. You have to just try to stay out of their way."
"He wasn't a big kid. He was half my size..."
Tristan said, "They knocked me down, too."
I snorted, Rob chuckled.
Trying to change the subject, Rob said, "You boys had fun tonight right? What was your favorite part?"
Julius said, "The bouncy houses were the best part."
Tristan said, "Yeah and they knocked me down..."
Obviously I'm not the only one who has a problem letting go.