Unlikely albatross - FamilyEducation

Unlikely albatross

September 25,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

The other day in the car L. mentioned that the year was going by really quickly. "I can't wait for this year to be over!" he said. "Is it that bad?" I asked. "I just can't wait until the next year, and then the next, and the next. I can't wait until I'm eighteen!" "Enjoy being nine while you can," the maternal voice of (40-year old) wisdom advised him from the front seat of the car. He was quiet for a minute. "You're right," he said. "I'll never get these years back once they're gone." ********** I've had a silly poem going around in my head all week. It goes something like this: O! Doughnut, round and brown that in his red lunchbox nestles, untouched... ...and, have fun imagining the rest of it--or finish it for me--write in a happy ending, won't you? Operation Bento Box has suffered some major setbacks in the couple of weeks. At first I noticed the doughnut returning uneaten--two, maybe three times a week. This past week it's come home every single day. I peek inside the bento, cringing inwardly, and find it still in there. Sometimes the tiniest baby-mouse-sized of all nibbles has been taken out of one side, most times it's completely untouched. The reasons why, vary: most days it's because something changed in the seating arrangements in the cafeteria. For L. to eat, he must have some "safety" net around him--at home it's the computer, or for dinner, the opportunity to pace around the table and talk. At school he needs to sit across from one particular friend, A., and as long as A. eats from a range of "safe" inoffensive foods and does nothing too out of the ordinary to upset the delicate balance, then L. will eat his doughnut. If any of these conditions are altered in the slightest, then he won't eat. But figuring out WHAT went wrong on any given day requires a mixture of patience, humor, creativity, finely-honed interrogation skills, and even then you might remain in the dark. Each time that doughnut comes home again, looking sad and somewhat deflated after a day spent in the bento box, I feel a part of myself shrinking, too. Some time ago, when T. was a very little baby and we were in the throes of worries about her health, I said something to Scott about wishing we could visit a point in time a few years into the future, know everything will turn out okay, then relax and enjoy her infancy--every single frustrating, sleep-deprived, joyous, exhilarating, bittersweet moment of it. We did enjoy it, of course, despite all the worry and uncertainty. I still have this compelling wish to leap forward into the future--maybe to a day when L. is eighteen, to touch that moment with my hand just so I know everything will be okay, then slingshot myself back to the here and now, where I can settle in and enjoy things more, worry less, feel my heart lighten with the knowledge that everything will be okay--because isn't that what all we parents want? Some guarantee that this business of life will turn out okay for our children in the end? But the thing with this eating business in particular is that I can't see a way out of it. I can't imagine L. waking up some day in the future and sitting down to an omelette and a side of veggie sausages. I can't imagine him ever eating the way he needs to eat. I can't see how this will fix itself and that doughnut, that little brown, round doughnut, is suddenly like a weight, some type of personal albatross. And if it's become that to me, what has it become to L.? *************** I wrote that after a very frustrating afternoon yesterday, then came home, fixed T. a bowl of rice, and her tooth promptly fell out into it after the first bite. So not to end the week with the image of the doughnut-turned-albatross, I send you off with this: Toothless wonder!Happy weekend!