Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Happy Tale of a Boy and his Lobster

My darling child stayed home from daycare Wednesday, at the suggestion of his day care provider. Since she was the one who had to clean vomit off his socks and shoes on Tuesday, we thought that was a fair request.

As usual, the throw-up was the first and last symptom. Immediately upon clearing the offending stuff out of his tummy, Ian feels FABULOUS!! and wants to play!! Usually something involving wrestling!! And I must say that being a mommy has stripped away most of my squeamishness - while it wouldn't occur to me personally to wrestle a barfed-on baby (or kiss him on the lips, another fav of his), the ideas isn't as upsetting as it used to be. (I can also watch snakes on TV - great huge fangy snakes!! - without my skin crawling.)

Anyway, my point was, no vomit, and unseasonably warm sunny days, and me and the kid at home. I didn't want to take him anywhere crowded, in case he did have something contagious, but our neighborhood's playground is deserted for most of the day, so we went out to play. Me and Ian and his lobster.

See, our Christmas tree is still up, but the branches are a tad droopy, so some stuff has dropped off. We put all our unbreakable (and un-chokable) ornaments on it, so the fallen stuff doesn't matter much. One of the ornaments is a wooden lobster, which I think we got to commemorate our honeymoon trip to the Canadian Maritimes. I do believe it used to sit on a little wooden lobster trap.

So Ian has taken a shine to this little lobster. He carried it around for much of the morning, watched Elmo and Bob with it, showed his sippy cup to it (but did not offer it any Pedialyte), set it carefully on his little desk so it could watch him work a puzzle.

And then he took it to the playground. I offered to hold it several times, and was rebuffed every time.

He sent it down the slide before him.

He walked it up one of the climbers.

He balanced it carefully on the playground equipment when he needed to run in circles.

He carried it in his fist when we went for a walk around the neighborhood and gave it a breathless audio tour ("Wind! Chimes!!") ("Tismas!!! Lights!!")

And then he threw it down and broke its claw off.

When Ian breaks things, it forces me to a moment of decision. Routinely, it is something about which I have just said 'Don't ______ the ________, you might break it by accident." (Don't gallop the camel from the nativity set, don't drop the clay frog, don't throw the lobster.) When he does, it takes every fiber of my meager mothering to not say "SEE?????"

He didn't throw it down in anger. (It's not that the lobster had offended him in some way. Or pinched him.) He threw it down because he wanted to feel what his body feels like when he throws. He likes it. It's like jumping. As a matter of fact, it usually includes some jumping. He's learning about his body and its limits and what its good for.

About a third of the time, I actually do say something like "See? What did I tell you?" Maybe a quarter of the time. Maybe less.

Whether I say it or not, I remember all the things I broke by accident when I was a kid. They come flying past, like the doors and pocketwatches in the beginning of the Twilight Zone. A colonial inkwell. The carved back of an antique chair. A gold chain that has been my great-aunt's. A very large reverse painting on glass. German glass Christmas ornaments from the 20s. Plates and glasses and serving pieces far too numerous to mention.

(This is why I can't watch Antiques Roadshow. It makes me queasy.)

And so, yesterday afternoon, I gathered up about 6 things, and Ian and I had a gluing party. We re-attached the camel's leg, and the frog's leg, and the heads of two resin cat refrigerator magnets. And we glued the lobster's claw back on. (And I glued my fingers together, and somehow got a glob of glue on my lower lip, but I did manage to keep Ian from gluing himself to anything.)

I think we will have regular gluing parties.

I had really a good childhood in nearly every way, but at some point I got the message that I must never make mistakes. That the mistakes I made were terrible and irreparable, (and also to be expected because I'm kind of a screw-up)...and pretty much where shame came from.

And, yes, I know that glue won't solve everything. And that he has to learn limits and discipline. And he is, and he will, honest.

But I want him to see that lots of mistakes - his and other people's - aren't tragic. That reparation is real, and most mistakes really aren't the end of the world. Not even the end of the lobster.

1 comment:

april said...

beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, Betsy. and funny as always... picturing lobster having his share of fun at the playground.