Snips and snails

This is an ode to boys
to their messy hilarity spilling
into city-park-world
greater than walls can contain
brighter than the spring-swelling sun
with an energetic happiness that, contagious,
infuses the next moment, hour, day
stretching beyond moonrise
beyond starshine
into bed and then up again at dawn
defining these happy, muddy days.

For the boys after our great, silly, ruckus and very long birthday day out, and for NaPoWriMo day 17.

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One day you will fly

Fly like the wind, my boy
when you find that one thing
the true thing you were born into
embrace it, and
fly like the wind.

For so long I’ve tried not to think
of the day you will fly away
instead, I tried to lift you up
and give you wings,
hoping you would not go far,
hoping you would always return.

Now I see you already soar
the way you were born to,
your circles around the sun
ever wider,
destined to light your way,
destined to light your life.

In dreams, we may run-fly-wander
through fields sun-kissed with wildflowers
but already I see you above me, stretching free,
head tossed back in rapture:
Fly like the wind, my boy.
Though you roam,
this, here, will always be home.

So go, embrace the sky,
I will wave each time you pass by.
Fly like the wind!

 

On NaPoWriMo day 14, a poem for my son the day before his 11th birthday, inspired in part by his newfound love (and skill) for running. 

Bridging the distance

I could hear the wind howling, howling so loudly I almost got up to see what the sound was. But I was warm and comfortable in my boy’s bed, the lights were low and I was watching his face as he read. I didn’t really want to go anywhere, not even the few feet across the room to look out the window.

I don’t remember when it was that I stopped reading to him. I remember when I started. It was before he was born. And then I resumed the first day we were let out of the hospital, when he was four days old. Other than the times he’s been punished, going to bed for a few days without a book, it has pretty much continued for the full 10 years and – what? eight months? As I said, I don’t know when it stopped. I guess it might have been somewhere around Christmas.

First we couldn’t decide on a book we both wanted to read. Then there were the few that I began and he took over on his own. Lately, he’s flown through four or five when I wasn’t looking. And that got him past needing someone to read to him. Or wanting it.

Now there’s a sort of emptiness. A space borne of the time not spent together, of night after night not cuddling up with books and blankets. I feel that emptiness as I make dinner, with him upstairs, me downstairs. I feel it when he leaves the kitchen after dinner and disappears back into his space.

Space is important, and I don’t begrudge him it, but I do feel the emptiness.

It’s not that he doesn’t want to do things together, just that he wants to do things I don’t want to (play soccer, play video games) or I want to do things he doesn’t (go for a run, look at pictures, read) or he wants to hang out when I’m making a meal, cleaning up, trying to get the things done that need doing. It’s an awkward dance – I’m ready when he’s not, he’s ready when I’m not.

Tonight though, after I had finished in the kitchen, I did play soccer with him for a bit in his room. And when it was time to lie down, to start to calm and unwind, he lay down with a book and I flopped down beside him to listen to the wind. We stayed like that for a while, him making the funny snuffling sounds he always makes when he reads, fidgeting endlessly, unable to lie still, me just watching him, ruminating, listening and watching and thinking.

When I got up to leave, he wound his arms around me and said, “I love you the most.”

My sweet boy.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll bring my book down to his room. We can create a new tradition while we lie around and read.

Bridge the distance, fill the space.

Together but separate.

 

As life expands and contracts 

This new place expands around me at first. It feels overwhelmingly vast so that I’m disoriented and can’t work out which way I’m trying to go. I have the sense that there are things happening just beyond my perception. The games room my son keeps disappearing to seems confusingly far, and never quite where I think it should be.

But once I walk the paths a few times and find my bearings, when familiarity sets in, the spaces begin to shrink. They become navigable, I can sense the layout, the extremities. This expanding and shrinking is my mind trying to find comfort, reaching out and seeking to hold onto what it knows.

Now, after a few days, I have a handle on the place. I’ve mapped its shops, activities, its corners. My son, reunited with his friends from home, has happily spent his time swimming, playing soccer, competing, exploring and eating with them – and I’ve let him roam, secure that he is somewhere within the walls, that our paths will cross at some point before bedtime.

I feel ridiculously joyful each time I see him pass with one of his friends. This desperately social only child of mine has, for this week, more or less joined an expansive family of five kids. He is the missing sixth and part of an easy pair, though they all form and reform, finding friendship in all combinations. They look for him, he looks for them and they run-ramble-roam in timeless abandon.

My husband and I may struggle with the concept of a resort, a mall-like compound full of people and divorced from the land itself, but this one joy makes my mothering heart soar.

Despite all the things I find wrong about a place like this – a place that degrades and infringes on the natural environment and displaced local populations – I find myself falling into step. Not embracing it, no, but finding the positives. The sun, the safety, the easiness, the kids’ freedom. I try to ignore the unease I feel at being able to do this, to ignore the blatant wrongness behind it all. 

I am well aware that kids could just as easily roam free and safely in a ecologically and culturally sensitive resort. I’m here, though, and happy to be with our friends, the parents of the five, watching them get married.

Moreover, I’ve left last week behind. It was the culmination of months of mounting stress and pressure at work to pull off an important meeting between our Deputy Minister and the head of an important organization. I felt uncomfortable leaving before the meeting, before everything was done, but I felt pride, too, the pride of knowing I had poured all my effort and my most analytic and strategic thinking into the preparations I had seen to over the days, weeks and months leading up to it.

So, here I sit poolside, with no questions to answer, no worries, no pressure – just sun, breezes and a son happily roaming. It’s hard not to just let go and relax into it, no matter how guilty or incensed I maybe should be.

Unfettered: The story of an evolving relationship

It has been many, many years since my son stayed overnight at his father’s. Many years since I’ve trusted my ex enough to let him have our son more than the allotted five hours. Many years since I’ve referred to my child as “ours” and meant someone other than my current husband. In fact, he hasn’t stayed overnight there since I won full custody, reduced access to five hours every two weeks and changed my son’s last name to mine. That was all five years ago. Half my son’s life ago.

It hasn’t even been very long that my son has been seeing his father, this time around. After mostly two years of his father being unreliable and absent, my son decided he had no interest in seeing him either. It was only Father’s Day 2015 that my son asked to see him again following eight months of unexplained refusal.

While I don’t know what changed my son’s mind, I can say that as far as my ex goes, things have vastly improved ever since February when he and his partner had a baby. I wouldn’t say I fully trust him – people don’t change – but I don’t feel terror at the thought of our son staying with him anymore, and that’s saying something. For now, he’s in a better place in his life and his mind and  I can’t really justify refusing to let our son stay with him. In fact, it was me who started involving him more in our son’s life again. I even organized this weekend for both of them.

I hope he doesn’t prove me wrong. I hope he doesn’t fall apart while our son is still a child, still vulnerable.

As awful as things were at their worst – lies, drinking, stealing, erratic behaviour – when he’s stable, my ex is charming, fun and able to run a business and a house. He can be a warm, relaxed person. They bond over a shared love of soccer and their shared experience on this earth, however limited it has been.

I’m happy about that. I hope that it will continue. It’s good for our son to feel unconflicted between both parents, to feel he can go back and forth between both households without incident. To spend time with both of us – and his new sister.

So, at the very early hour of 8:00 am Saturday, I packed him off for a day and a half.

My son is my heart and soul, just as much a part of me as my own limbs. Yet, he is also the independent person I have taught him to be. He is able to stand on his own, speak up for himself, and go off and do things and make his own way – the way of an only child. At 8 years old, he chose to go to sleepaway camp for 26 nights straight and he did just fine (survivable homesickness aside). He flies alone to visit his grandparents in Toronto. He walks into all sorts of situations on his own, introduces himself and gets involved. So though we’re very close and I miss him, I know he’s ok away from home.

Still, when it comes to his father, I worry. And it’s more than the man himself. There’s so much all parties invest in a parental relationship, so many hopes and expectations. Especially one as complex and fraught as this one.

It doesn’t help that I’m naturally anxious and a worrier.

I must have kept myself sanely busy, though, because here I am now, about to go pick him up.

I’m surprised to find myself looking forward to hearing all about the house, his new sister, his time with the other part of his family. I don’t feel the expected pang of regret or sadness or even fear. I just want him to be happy, to have had the weekend he was looking forward to. And I’m sure he did.

It is so much easier to abandon the angst, fear and outrage, to leave the bad of the past in the past and, while still watching out for my son, finally move forward, unfettered.