The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

In Day, Out Day May 13, 2012

While the weather report told us today it would rain, so far it’s been a sunny and very warm spring day. Finally, finally I am without commitments (we’d had mid-day lunch plans that fell through just a few hours ago) and I can address the large patch of soil that will hopefully become our garden. Our very first real garden.

I involved Elihu in the preparations, cutting and winding twine, collecting stakes, poles for our beans and such, but when we began our walk down the hill to the garden he left me and ran for the chickens. I expressed my frustration that he’d already played with the chickens this morning – in fact he’d already had one in the living room – and we really needed to keep our focus and get to the garden. His reaction? Tears. An explosion of tears and sobbing and protests that ‘he just wanted to play with his chickens’ and then he turned and ran back into the house. He flung his shoes off dramatically and landed on his bed, still crying.

When something like this happens I admit my first response – the one that might feel the most organic and give me some feeling of control over the situation – might be to get angry with him, to try and explain to him why his outburst is pointless, his choice of leaving this project is immature, his need to play again with his chickens is silly. But I knew this wouldn’t net me anything. It wouldn’t get him back outside with me, and it wouldn’t make him any happier. So I took a breath, kneeled beside him where he lay on the bed, and I waited. I waited for him to tell me what was going on. “I don’t know why, but I just need to cry”, he told me. “I just want to get my pajamas on again and get into bed”. I guess I can understand. While we’ve had a great time the past two days visiting new friends and spending hours out in the world doing things, that kind of busy-ness, that amount of time away from home can wear on him. I could tell he’d had enough visits, projects, agendas, plans. And that’s just fine. At my age I feel a keen desire to use all the time that I can in the most productive way possible, but I am forty-nine. I didn’t feel like that at one time in my life. I can remember well when all I wanted was just a day to myself to stay in bed and do nothing. Maybe I was fourteen when I felt like that, not nine, but hey, if he just needs a break – then he should be allowed to take one.

I’ve come inside to see how he’s feeling – and to change into shorts. It’s a hot day, more like summer than spring. His father calls, and he jumps up and goes for the phone. An hour ago he didn’t want to talk to his dad either. Now his tone is light, he seems happy. Maybe a break really was just what he needed. I, however, don’t need a break. I need more time. More help. I have this crazy list that never ends, and I wish I had a pair of hands to help me get it all done. I do have an afternoon, and that’s a pretty big deal. Let’s see if we can’t both get what we want. He doesn’t want to be entirely alone, and in fact he’s had his heart set on making a certain paper airplane design for a while now, and it turns out he’s rather upset that the garden has taken precedence. So it looks like I’ll have to split my day. Before I can get to the garden, I’ll have to make a couple fancy paper airplanes at the kitchen table.

I remember it’s mother’s day, and I almost wish I could use that card to buy myself a time-out of mothering duties. But then again, is not what we celebrate today the very thing that I am doing? I am being a mother, and I am always grateful (although sometimes more than exhausted for it) that life has given me this priviledge.

So I’ll spend the next hour with Elihu, and we’ll see if we can’t make some of these pretty-looking planes. I’m not great with this kind of stuff – but I’ll do the best I can. I’m a mom, and it’s my job. I’ll figure it out.

Then after my inside day, I’ll go outside again to the garden. At least that’s what I hope I’ll do. Because that would be a nice mother’s day gift to be sure. But for now it’s off to to make a paper airplane or two… I need to give lil man some quality attention and focus. After all, the garden will still be there tomorrow after he’s back in school.

Inside, outside. Time with my child, time alone. All in its time and place.

 

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