coming back from the landfill

“are you down in the dumps?” i asked quinn when i went to get him for dinner and found him just sitting, with a somewhat scrunched up look on his face.

“i’m actually in the landfill,” he replied, deadpan. i couldn’t help it, i cracked a smile, and then he immediately did too, and soon we were giggling.

he keeps breaking my heart with his preciousness. he has grown several inches in a short space of time and keeps impressing me with his appetite. he is having growing pains: “my leg hurts right here” and such, brought on by seemingly nothing. he is anywhere along the spectrum from landfill to joy-filled at any given moment, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track. when i explained to him about not being at school for a little bit, he stated that he did not like having serious conversations, and that was the end of that. he doesn’t want me to leave him at bedtime, and when i asked what he was scared about one night he asked me, “what if i get put in time out?” and we had a long talk about what it feels like in time out, and how he never wants to go in it. (feelings of “the person who put me in time out is stupid” peeled back to reveal “angry” which peeled back to reveal “the person who put me in time out must not love me.”) he sometimes feels unsure of his parents’ love for him. at age five. i dug out unconditional parenting to reread because one of the most influential themes of that book for me was that no matter how unconditional a parent thinks her love is, it is whether the message of unconditionality is received by the child that matters. peeling back more layers, he is not sure whether he loves himself and sometimes hates himself. (at this point part of me wanted to say, “i don’t like having serious conversations” and bolt.) sometimes he wonders if he might be “the baddest child in the world.” he is going through some big gnarly feelings and one thing getting me through it is that he appears to feel he can talk to me about it. he doesn’t seem to stay there in the landfill for long before he is back on top of a dragon, riding it around the house.

showing me where he needs me to draw toothless

i have a vague notion that I went through some tumultuous young child emotions when i was quinn’s age. when i was about 20 years older than Quinn is, i felt unsure of my parents’ love for me. i can see how my parents might have felt shocked by this, as i now feel shocked that Quinn could possibly doubt my love for him. my mom and dad are the best. i myself find it hard to believe i doubted their love, now that i look back on the very bumpy decade of my twenties. right at my bottom point, my most alone, they were always the ones who remained, who were right there even as the dust was still clearing around the rubble, ready to point me back to myself, reminding me of who i was when i had long since lost track. i still have a photo my mom took of me- i am a speck on the horizon in the photo, having walked to the water’s edge at the beach and having just turned around to come back. she told me it held symbolism for her because it was the moment she knew i was going to “come back” from all of my traumas and be okay.

i feel an urgency right now to hold Quinn, really hold who he is for him, keep a space open, like a vigil, a candle lit and shining on his true nature, his amazing soul, lest he ever forget.

so you grab your purple crayon and flesh out the picture behind, and find that the whole world is made of one unbroken line. ~ani difranco

we spent an hour last night with him rattling off words that i was spelling with the dwindling 19 or so letters we have on the side of the fridge. (that was after the letters had been abandoned after playing a quidditch match, gryffindor vs “smytherith” on the floor, and i asked for them to be picked up before the fridge swallowed up any more.) we met a pet. at sat cat bat rat hat. ed bed red ted. lad had tad rad bad sad mad. then we graduated to scrabble, with its much larger supply of letters to work with. some weeks whip by so quickly and i feel like i am being pulled along by the river of time and not pinning enough little memories to the banks.

mary was so good to remind me of the sensory therapy offered by the beach sand that i have been neglecting even though several miles of my commute are along the coast on highway 101. so we stopped and re-enacted scenes from how to train your dragon in our bare feet, buried wet sand balls in the dry sand, and drew scenes from how to train your dragon in the sand. then we spear-hunted woolly mammoths (our shoes, followed by our car, which we dug out and turned into a motor vehicle- how else was i going to get him to agree to come home with me?) with sticks. we banged tongs (swords) on pot lids (shields) and trained more dragons. we played dragon chess and dragon checkers. we drew more scenes in his sketchbook, we worked on taming the perfectionism dragon a bit. so long, landfill.

5 comments to coming back from the landfill

  • megan

    we roll around on the sand several times a week. Nick isn't himself if we don't do this. Sometimes he chants "beach, beach, beach!" i love it 🙂 He tells me what he needs xoxoxo

  • marybethrew

    i'm glad you are still living in close enough range of the beach to do some rolling! xoxoxo

  • Leticia

    (why can't I write like you?)

    you are such an amazing mama, too, mb. and quinn is so… quinn. even when you write something that makes me feel I should respond with sympathy, say "oh that's so hard," or "what a challenge mama," instead all I can think is how awesome you are and how much I love quinn…

  • mamaC

    No kidding on the wanting to bolt. Yep.

    My perfectionism dragon is one that I occasionally remember needs some taming. It seems what I'm "not willing to accept" is the possibility that I might not do such a good job, or that my kids might decide that I screwed up here, there, and in this way, and that. Like, lately I've been noticing that my most jammed up times have to do with intense self-criticism/rejection around mistakes I make and the upset around giving my kids "stopped processes/stuck places" (or emotional baggage) that may interfere with their ability to be present & loving, once they are faced with newborns, or 2 or 4 year olds of their own…. And I feel this intense rejection of "that" reality, and also pain at the thought of my kids seeing my efforts & blunders so much differently than I do (I know I said something about self-rejection, but that comes after my self-compassion and caring acceptance….the realization that I may see myself with understanding, while my children may see how it hurt them, and may be angry…..and that's when the self-rejection/not good enough floods in.) And if I stay with it I see that I'm resisting the possibility of those future hard times, of hearing that my times of poor attunement really hurt them in some lasting way, but what that moment would actually bring would be the opportunity to be well-attuned RIGHT THEN! To hear them for their own experience and perspective, to be able to validate that right then, and to accept them/their stories unconditionally right then.

    I think this relates to the whole "still" hitting at age five thing (different post) in a way, too. The things that are problems in the moment are evidence of "something" (I tend to see them as happening because of this or that struggle of mine, this or that failing) but when we respond in an accepting way we actualize the opportunity for bringing what

    was/is needed. It was needed "then" and maybe didn't happen, but it's needed just as much "now" and now it can happen!

    We all have such an instinct to heal, given the right opportunity. (I can't tell anymore if I'm responding to the "right" blog post, lol!) I really believe that. The things that feel like indictments or "evidence" of not getting what was needed when it was needed, not getting an optimal response (that "created" an issue or a problem), surface because of a child's instinct to heal, to off-load what's needed.

    Oh yeah, landfill post. Yeah. I wanted to say that sometimes being able to SAY the scariest thing, the scariest possible reality, is the main thing. Being able to put things like this out there: like maybe being the baddest child in the whole world, or maybe sometimes hating himself. Being able to put it out there (out loud, to a parent) that maybe you don't always feel certain of your parents' love. Having that heard and "allowed." Putting those possibilities out there, out loud, could have been the main task. I imagine that discovering that he is loved even when you know what he's thinking and feeling, and discovering that those possibilities weren't "too horrible" to be heard and contained (by you)—(they didn't seem to cause you too big a problem), likely gave a great confidence and relief. And, I would imagine, joy.

    Hugs to you, my buddy. That stuff is pretty rattling/wrenching, I know.

  • marybethrew

    you are always so validating and have such lovely insights. i am proud to think of myself as your buddy. 🙂 we have lots to discuss, i'm excited!

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