It all started with a game of hide-and-seek.
Lately, AJ has been really into hide-and-seek. He hides, say, behind the living room curtains, seated on the floor, little feet sticking out. “Hey, are you hiding?” I call. “Yeth,” he answers. “Where are you? I can’t see you.” I say. “Tee hee hee,” he giggles. The curtains move as do the little feet. He can hardly contain himself. Neither can I. Who could in the face of such innocence, such pleasure in play?
One of his favorite hide-and-seek games involves sitting on the couch and putting the green chenille throw blanket over his head. He looks like a green lump. Or a teddy bear in a green burqa. His head is still quite large in proportion to the rest of him. Somehow, this game has progressed. Now, once I have found him, he wants me to join him under the blanket.
It is dark in there, with pinholes of light. He is adamant that the blanket not be lifted along any edge. “Close it,” he barks.
I don’t particularly like this. Even as a kid the ‘tent under the blankets with a flashlight’ was brilliant as an idea and miserable as a practice. It is stuffy. I don’t have time for this.
But when I go sit under the blanket with him, his eyes light up. “Mama!” he exclaims and launches into an explanation/exposition/celebration speech that makes up for its un-intelligibility with length and expressiveness. He gestures, babbles, waves his hands around, chortles to himself. He is sharing his experience, his story, his perspective in a way that he doesn’t do in other places. We laugh a lot under there. I find myself wanting to fix these moments in my mind. I want to remember this sweetness and fun.
This has me thinking about how important it is to be willing to go into another’s space, another’s preferred perspective, to really hear them, for them to really feel heard and seen and felt.
In other musings, I have written and thought and struggled (hopefully not always in that order) with the inherent challenge of parenting, the Catch-22 all mommies and daddies who give a shit deal with–that we must somehow stay connected even as we give our children space to have their own experiences, to move away from us. From the beginning, we are letting go. Yet we also strive to maintain the connection, to strengthen the bond–the ‘attachment’ that gets so much air time.
I have pondered how to negotiate this dichotomy. To accept, to understand, to balance.
I think this chenille tent is a clue, a hint at how this can be done. If I can allow him the freedom to explore and find and create the places where he is comfortable. If I can be available and willing to go into this space, even if it is uncomfortable for me. If I can take time for his ‘nonsense,’ listen to his incoherence, attend to his experience.
Perhaps, then, perhaps, he can really know how to have both love and freedom and autonomy and care. And, if not all that, at least we will have had some giggles and good memories.