June 23, 2010
Have a Field Day
My youngest rolled out the side entrance of his school, trundling along in his wagon, flanked on either side by the other members of his pre-school special education class. As a mom I am excited to see him, grateful to watch his smile overtake his face as he realizes that yes indeed, his mommy is there to watch him perform in Field Day. As a teacher I am wondering why he was chosen as one of two students whose exit from his classroom required a vehicle. Was he a particularly good boy that day? Did he perhaps ask nicely and was subsequently rewarded with the front-row seat? Is it just that his teacher is worried that getting him from the exit to the field without running ahead is such an odious proposition it’s just easier to place him in the red plastic receptacle?
I suspect strongly the decision was based on the latter scenario.
Either way, he is thrilled with both his escort and the upcoming event, and he can barely wait until his wagon slows to a stop before he leaps out and runs into my arms. I quickly embrace him, then direct him to return to his class and waiting teacher. He looks me in the eyes and says “Mommy, come”, and in that moment there truly is no other option. I take his hand and walk with him to sit amongst the other children and their assorted parents, and attempt to make him focus on what his teacher is saying, not the fact that his mother is parked next to him. It becomes a losing battle.
I have to admit I find the prospect of redirecting his attention humorous, for just that very morning when I had asked him if he’d like mommy to come to school for Field Day he had responded with a resounding “No, mommy stay home”, which was a tempting command given that our pool had recently been opened. I chose, however, to do the mature thing. Instead of donning my bathing suit I opted to enter my oven of a car in what seemed like mere minutes after he left for school, and nobly attended my son’s end of year event.
Oh, the sacrifices we make.
Of course, despite the allure of chlorinated water there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, particularly as Zachary seems to be enmeshed in a “mommy phase”, mired in what I’m certain will be a brief detour from his permanent residence in “daddyland”. My youngest and my husband have been inseparable from birth, perhaps because his father works from home and Zach has access to him sporadically throughout the day. Perhaps he senses Justin has previously staked out his territory on me, and is not inclined to enter into battle with him over their shared mother. Perhaps, of course, he just likes my husband better. I’ll never really know.
But today my smallest son only has eyes for me, and if I’m completely honest with myself, it’s fun to be the favorite. Throughout the morning I am ordered to assist him in hanging wet clothes on a washline (a chore I’m certain no one on this field has ever witnessed before). I willingly assist him in his ill-fated attempts to negotiate the field while inhabiting a burlap sack, stopping every few feet to place my giggling son upright, an act he continues to find hilarious all the way to the finish line. I encourage him to follow the directions of his well-trained aides as he traverses the grass in zig-zag fashion, heavy-handed with sodden sponges I am hoping he doesn’t release on his teachers. I have to remind him that running to me for a hug in the middle of the obstacle course is not good form, and convince him that my participation in the culminating tug-of-war event is not warranted. I win that battle, as long as I remain within sight of my boy. The negotiations afforded him a win as well.
All too quickly, the feats of strength are concluded. After the requisite photo shoot is completed I approach him, take his hand, tell him how proud I am of him, and remind him he’s going back to school for a bit, and I’m going home. This declaration is not met with a great deal of enthusiasm, and I watch my son avert his gaze from me, and hang his head dejectedly. We walk quietly with his class back to the main building, and when we reach the juncture where his path veers towards the school and mine toward the parking lot I hug him, give him a brief kiss, and tell him I’ll see him soon.
Zachary turns away, grabs his teacher’s hand, and throws his matching limb across his face as he bursts into wracking sobs. Intellectually I am aware that being separated from me for twenty-seven minutes is not indeed tragic, that his reaction is not commensurate with the situation. Emotionally I am the slightest bit gleeful, as I realize how far he’s come in his attachments, his ability to express emotions, even his capacity to demonstrate sadness at separation. A year ago, he wouldn’t have cared that I was leaving, much less that I had been there at all. I would find out later that his tears lasted as long as it took to get him seated for a treat at his favorite table. There is nothing a “grandma brownie” cannot cure after all.
As I head to my car with keys and camera, replete with photos capturing perhaps every moment of the morning, I am struck by this thought. For years I have been attending school events with Justin, strategically anticipating exactly how long I can participate before he decides he has had enough, and that leaving the facility with his mother is a far more reinforcing prospect than spending even one more minute in school. I have chosen on occasion to forego some parties because of his desire for a premature departure, and I have done so with a heavy heart. Sometimes, I just knew he’d get more out of the experience if I wasn’t there.
Today, however, was peaceful. I watched my son fully participate to the best of his ability in a half-dozen athletic exercises, he remained on the field, and listened to directions (more or less). Save for his brief foray into despair at the end of the morning he was nothing but pleasant, compliant, and enthusiastic. There was not one minute of anxiety on my end, no plotting how to circumvent an impending desire to vacate the premises, no angst. He behaved beautifully.
And his mother, for once, just had fun.
Next year, I just might join him in that burlap sack.