As Ben lay his head down on the pillow, he said with unbridled excitement, “I can’t wait to get my white belt tomorrow!” I paused, “Ben, I don’t think they give out white belts the first day of class. Don’t get your hopes up, kay?” His face immediately crumbled and squished into a cry and tears pooled in his eyes. “I’m not talking to you!” he shouted. “You just ruined all my happiness!”
I didn’t mean to make him cry, I wanted to protect him. But when he said it, I knew it was true. I was ruining all of his happiness. His desire was pure and full of delight and I squashed it with the hammer of practicality, of don’t-get-your-hopes-up-kid.
“He is the enlightened one,” the psychic said. “He is the teacher. He’s going to say things that piss you off, but they will be true.”
Like that time when he was 3 and was going on about something 3-year-olds go on about, and I was nodding, “Mmm, hmmm….right honey… ” And maybe my voice was a little too sing-songy, a little too preschool marm, because he looked me square in the eyes and said, “Mom, when you talk to me like that it makes me feel like you’re not listening to me and like I’m a baby.”
At eleven, his truths are more advanced.
I stomped around the apartment the other day, angry, slamming cupboards, throwing dirty socks a little too violently into the hampers, muttering under my breath about how I always have to clean up everything on my own and how the boys need to step it up…
And there he was on his bed, shaking his head, tears streaming – “You’re just angry mom. And you need someone to blame. So you’re blaming us.”
Oy vey. The truth-speaker strikes again!
I am like a pebble in this river of motherhood and I am getting knocked and tumbled and polished – made softer and more beautiful (I hope) save for all of the pain and bruises of the tumble.
My own mother used to shout a lot – at salespersons at Nordstrom’s, cab drivers, servers at restaurants. My sister and I would hide in the clothing racks in the Brass Plum section, mortified. “Is there anyone here who can take my money??!!!!” she’d yell at the empty cash register. And when I had to face the salespeople later, I would smile at them apologetically, trying to gain their favor, attempting to disassociate myself from my mother and the “incident.”
I couldn’t imagine saying to my mother that she was angry, that she just needed someone to blame, but I’m sure I felt it. I preferred to stay buried inside those circular racks of blouses, invisible.