by Ann Marie Crockett
You wouldn’t think that a bad hair day could go so cataclysmically wrong. Is it possible that a 9-year old can be the fodder, the ignition switch for a middle-aged woman to completely lose her mind? Fifteen minutes in front of the mirror, 5 minutes past the bus, and we are still trying to get the exact look and follicle placement for each hair. It will end with my plying him out of the back seat of the car with the help of the school guidance counselor. His screaming for me not to leave, that he needs one more hug. What should I google for this most recent aberration of my child’s behavior? “Children who refuse to go to school,” “Children in 4th grade, who refuse to go to school,” “Children in 4th grade who refuse to go to school, who have experienced domestic violence,” “Children who refuse to go to school because they are having a bad hair day, and have a dad who suffers from a mood disorder and tell their mother she sucks?” All of these will get hits. There will be pages of stories from doctors, therapists, and parents. So what am I looking for, a diagnosis, someone who might have a child like mine who has found a miracle solution, or perhaps some kind of justification for my own inability to hold it together?
With two older sons, my illusions of motherhood were long ago replaced with the reality of raising other human beings who experience the world, as well, other human beings, they are not mini me’s, yet it is not easy to let go of the belief that their personalities, their essence are reflections of my abilities as a parent. For a long time I became a walking apology for all that my sons have been through. Compelled to explain their quirkiness to other parents, not for any need of my children’s but as an asterisk to my own parenting ability.
At the school performance later in the week, my son will walk on stage with the rest of his classmates. He is front row and while he has given me specific instructions not to take his picture, the cameras that surround me are too much. On stage, his lips start to tremble when he sees me taking his picture, I thought I could be like all the other parents. I duck past and through other parents as the teachers help him off the stage. His anger erupting as soon as we clear the double doors of the auditorium.
“I told you not to take my picture. Why did you take my picture, Why!” He starts punching and kicking as I bear hug his hands until we can start the calming process in the principal’s office.
I’m exhausted by these moments, I want him to be like the other kids. I want to rewind his life, to have a do over at this parenting thing. I want him to know what it feels like to have two parents who are safe. To have a dad he can trust so that he can trust the world. I feel that I can no longer always be his everything. It is too big of a job. I am the only one he will trust and I can’t even follow the simple instructions to not take a picture, To not give into my own selfish desire to have a tangible memory of this event to pretend for just a few minutes that he is like all the other kids on stage who are being silly, waving to their parents, being fully immersed in their childhood.
“I’m sorry I hit you mom.” His voice breaks through my own cacophony of self doubt and fear. I hug him so close, but I’m afraid. I want a crystal ball. I want to know that we are going to get through this, that he will know joy and trust. That his fear and anger are not going to be newspaper headlines 10-years from now.
Later that night, saying goodnight from his red race car bed, his tiny foot shoots out and straight up into the air from under the kelly green of his fleece blanket.
“Mom, watch this.” His big toe bends backward and almost reaches the top of his foot. Watching me make the face I make when he does his double jointed shoulder thing, he starts giggling, I laugh as he wiggles his toe around for added effect, and then we are both lost in the tears of laughter. Staring at his rumpled sandy hair and Opie freckles that stretch across his cheeks and nose I wonder about that crystal ball. We don’t get to be the only ones at the pottery wheel, with each interaction our children take a new form. A well rounded bowl one day, an indefinable, pitted shape the next. How do we know when one of the pits becomes a crack too big to fix. How do we know if it’s the clay, the sculptor, or the wheel.
Category: Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student