This morning I stood at the counter slicing an apple with a very sharp knife. I love this knife. If I had to escape my burning house I would grab this knife. It is totally replaceable and still it makes the cut. Literally.
The two boys are across from me. One casually stealing my apple slices while dodging the slicer. The other chattering about what a “weird” family we are. His evidence? That he likes red apples and I like green. I don’t find it particularly noteworthy but I am enjoying his animation so I go with it. Just 15 minutes earlier he was picking at the open wound of Middle School. “I don’t feel that well.” He told me with a wrinkled brow and energy of a well person. “I’m not sure I should go to school today.”
Across the world there are little Peggy Ann McKays (from the must memorize poem “Sick” by Shel Silversten (best baby gift ever.)) explaining their various ailments. Parents are feeling foreheads and rolling eyes. With this child I did neither. He has anticipated school with such excitement that I couldn’t keep him in the house in the mornings for years. This year is different. It is early days still I tell him (and me.) I’m sure he sits in a room full of future friends. But really I am not sure. I am remembering months of lunches in the band-room and imagining them passed down like my blue eyes (and unlike my love for green apples.) Steve reassures me that my son doesn’t care the way I do. The way I did. I know this is true, and still Oliver looks at me with the blue eyes we share and asks me to rescue him. To let him stay home where he can wrap himself in blankets and wait a while for the wider world.
I wondered how many other moms were standing at breakfast counters thinking about protecting kids from loneliness. For all of my talk of lazy parenting this is an area that I want to be able to take action in. I can’t do it. None of us can. We can’t find friends for them. We can’t create a sense of confidence in the classroom.
This weekend was a reprieve from both of our worrying. At a small dinner party he was the largest kid. Assigned the impossible task of keeping order by another parent he embraced it with the glee of new socks (“its not just that I have more socks…its the way they HUG me when I put them on”) With 6 cupcakes to divide amongst seven children he set aside fractions and skipped dessert. Other faces were smeared with frosting while he reported to the grownups that maybe sugar wouldn’t be helpful to calm down his charges. On the short ride home he described all kid yoga and his brother bragged “I didn’t help Ollie AT ALL. I worked against him.” “Yeah his brother agreed…you turned yoga into human dominos.” They laughed together at the memory.
Amongst the children of our friends he was as happy as he has always been. It is easier to be the biggest. The oldest.
Even if it means skipping the cupcake.