Unveiled spectacles

I’m quite a reserved person around most people. When those people aren’t looking, though, I am an unabashed, all-singing, all-dancing spectacle. I don’t know if the same is true for other outwardly reserved people. I’ve come to believe it is not, based on what I have heard, even though intuitively it feels like it should be.

My son is an all-singing, all-dancing spectacle. But, often, around other people, he’s gone quiet. At nursery, in particular, he was not at all the same person as he was at home. I worried that my reservation around people – my ineptitude with small talk, my politeness overbearing my warmth, my stance of one foot in and one foot out when stopped in the street – had rubbed off on him. I worried he’d already caught my reserved-person-ness, and that is not something I want to burden another all-singing, all-dancing spectacle with.

When lockdown was decreed, my concern was heightened. Now he wasn’t getting the socialisation he was previously getting, away from me. Now, not only was I his overwhelmingly primary influence, but it was also mainly just me and him, and some occasional strangers we had to stay away from. I tried not to entertain the visions of him refusing to make eye contact with anyone outside of the home by the end of all this.

But something different happened. He doesn’t go quiet around strangers anymore. An old man went by and asked if he’d found anything good in the dirt he was sifting though, and instead of looking down with a shy smile, he said he’d found some rocks, and they had a fairly extended conversation where they exchanged names and opinions about worms, cleared up some questions about his trike, and talked about how old and decrepit I am.

Now, he’s even started soliciting conversation with strangers. He shouts hello to other children he likes the look of. He talks very loudly about the huskies we see so their owners feel obliged to stop. We passed an old lady in the street the other day, he said hello, and when she replied, he asked her if she’d been shopping. He was climbing a tree in the park today and when a young girl walked past with her dog he shouted to her “look at meeeee!”. We had a short conversation with my neighbours earlier, and when they went inside he kept repeating ‘see you later!’ louder and louder until they replied.

Something has changed, and I don’t know if it’s something I did right, or if this is a developmental thing, or if he’s just so starved for human interaction that he’s had to take it upon himself.

But now I think it’s time to start worrying about what my version of ‘don’t talk to strangers’ needs to be.

Expand and retreat

Out walking today, it was very, very windy. After aborting our beach walk, we were heading inland, my son in a carrier with the cover over his head like he hasn’t been for about two years now. We’d had quite the adventure racing to shelter when the wind picked up. He’d had enough of the ‘sand wind’ and wanted to be safely wrapped up against my chest, with my cardigan secured over his legs. He went very quiet and very still, resting his head against me. Amidst the screaming wind, he seemed like the centre of all peace.

I’d taken provisions for a full day out – I guess I should have checked the weather more carefully. As it happened, about 20 minutes after we got to the beach, we were headed home again, my son no longer even in the mood to visit the swans at the park. I hadn’t intended to be carrying a nearly three year old on my front, my rucksack full of clothes and drinks and snacks on my back, and his little rucksack stuffed full of toys in my hand, for essentially a two hour round trip. But it was an unanticipated blessing.

I’ve been doing my best lately to give him space to grow and flourish into the human he is becoming. To make myself a little less important. It’s challenging and relieving and rewarding and terrifying. But to embrace him as the baby he still in some ways is is as comforting to me as it is to him, I think.

We are all in need of both expansion and sanctuary. One without the other soon becomes a bleak existence. But residing on the borderline does amplify the contrast. It creates a tension which can be uncomfortable, especially during times when we feel the balance of our needs shifting. Ultimately, though, it allows us to sink deeper into each space; to enrich ourselves more fully. Like all aspects of duality, it’s the dancing on the borderline where we find the most living to be had.

Not quite up for dancing

Today has been a long day.

We skipped our exercise time becase I was just too bloody exhausted. When we skip our exercise time, it is always a long day, but I’m not confident enough to proclaim causality.

Instead of doing acrobatics to ‘Hey Ya!’, followed by ride-on yoga and our dinosaur inspired workout routine, we played lazy-mammy-bed-wrestling, where I lay down and wrapped my arms around him and he tried to escape for twenty minutes or so. Then we ‘pretended’ to go to sleep. I got away with that for about three minutes. Then we read about dinosaurs for a Very. Long. Time.

It seems especially important right now to go with it when a low energy day arises. Preserving one’s sanity is of paramount importance, and burnout of any kind is to be keenly avoided.

So I didn’t do the dishes or the washing. I chose the easiest meal options. I let him come up with the ideas for what to do with our day. For most of the day, he played with trains and jigsaws while I lounged nearby and politely declined his orders. This afternoon we made tea and biscuits and watched TV together. At one point he demanded I tickle him while singing Sara Bareilles songs, which seemed like a good – if very bizarre – deal to me. And he climbed and clambered and undulated over my lethargic form at every opportunity, with me quietly hoping it counted as exercise.

I am constantly trying to find a balance of how much to control, and how much to relinquish. Days like these get me closer to figuring it out. But I do like it better when my body’s up for dancing.