Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Furious Firsts

Yes, he's wearing blue.  That's my fault.
We got the proofs back of Walt's first "school photos" today.  The whole thing was very exciting ... dressing him up in a ridiculous outfit, dropping him off at day care, Walt looking all clean and put together and us wondering exactly how long that would last. My school photos always featured extra static-y hair and freshly scratched-open scabs on my face.  So, I was expecting something like that.  Instead, Walt's clothes, hair and face look great.  But they posed him with a toy tractor.  And, in another photo, a baseball, bat and glove.  Why?!  So distracting, so unnecessary, so nonsensical, so unimaginative, so ... presumptuous. We don't know what sport he likes or if he likes sports at all.  We can't assume he'll automatically be enamored with farm equipment and heavy machinery.  I was almost mad enough to write my first angry mom letter, warning against forcing my son into heteronormative stereotypes.

But then I took another look at the one with the tractor, and it's pretty cute.  We might get an 8 x 10 or two.

Fleeting fits of anger are the norm these days in our house.  Mostly on the part of Walter, whose sixth month milestone sheet from the pediatrician says this is a normal developmental stage.

This is Walter's worried face
Today, Walter had his first honest-to-goodness temper tantrum. When I picked him up from day care and put him in the car seat to go home, Walt did his normal little worried face and informative cry. He was informing me that I needed to get him on the boob, ASAP.  I was able to distract him with the ABC song. When we got home he seemed OK, so I thought I'd try to get some oatmeal into him before nursing.  The moment his bottom hit the highchair he wailed, and then stopped as soon as I picked him up again.  I still needed to take off my coat, so I tried to sit him down in our nursing chair for a moment.  He locked his legs to keep from sitting and then ...

...he stamped his feet!!

Angry foot stamping!  I couldn't believe it. I didn't hesitate for a moment--I got him to sit, took off the coat, removed all other barriers and got him nursing--but that little foot stamp flooded me with all kinds of thoughts and emotions.

This little guy has always had big feelings.  Even before he was born, I felt like he was trying to express himself. Maurice Sendak died today, so I'd already been thinking about kids and all those deep, big, sometimes scary feelings that wash over you and toss you around when you're little. I can remember shaking with rage, totally out of control with feelings that were too big for my body.

I'm not going to lie ... Walter stamping his foot and throwing a tiny baby tantrum was pretty adorable.  But it was also pretty amazing, and it gave me pause to think about all the tantrums and outbursts and door slamming to come.

It's alright to cry, little boy.  It's OK to stamp your feet sometimes, too.  Gotta get all that energy out somehow. Preferably not while nursing.  Ouch.

Why, Mom?  Why?
A week ago we were at church and I decided to get Walt out into the beautiful weather to play on the grass.   "This is going to be so fun!" I thought, also feeling guilty that we don't have good grass for Walter to lounge and play on at home.  I joined some congregation members outside, sat down, and very confidently sat Walter down in front of me, feeling proud that he's so good at sitting up on his own.  The mom next to me said, "Wow, that's great.  When I put my babies on the grass they usually ... did that!" She pointed and I saw Walter winding up a huge silent scream, preparing the way for a heartfelt wail.  I scooped him up, got a blanket under him, and he was fine, but wary.

Yesterday we tried again, a little wiser, a little more cautious. I sat him down on a blanket on the grass.  He sat up confidently and reached out to touch the grass with hands. He'd touch it, shudder, wipe his hands on his pants, and then reach out for the grass again and repeat.  Eventually, his curiosity regarding dandelions overcame his repulsion, and he set his hands down on the grass and kept them there awhile.

He still doesn't like it.  But he keeps trying.  And when a cool breeze blows through his hair, he smiles and sighs.  There's a whole lot of good in this wild, scary, infuriating world.

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