Friday, March 20, 2015

Walter Explains It All

Once a week, Walter and I have breakfast together. Usually it's "Mini Wheats with Mama" (I'm trying to figure out how to sell that story to Kellogg's ... it's advertising gold, I tell you) but today we went out to McDonald's. On the way there I was impressed, as always, with Walter's use of logic.

Me: "Would you like to go to Denny's or McDonald's?"
Walter: "MCDONALD's!" (Pause) "McDonald's is very very far away."
Me: "Actually, it's very close by!"
Walter: "Actually, it's far away.  Umma and Baba live far away.  McDonald's is by Umma and Baba's house. That means, McDonald's is far away, too."
Me: "That's true! There is a McDonald's near Umma and Baba's house.  I love the way you thought about that.  But there's a McDonald's by our house, too."
Walter: (Skeptical silence.)

We turned into Crossroads Commons, across the street from our house.

Walter: "Oh! Yes, there is a McDonald's here. You will turn here and that's where it is. There are two McDonald's, one by Umma and Baba's house and one by our house!"
Me: "That's true!  And there are even more McDonald's than that, too!"
Walter: (exasperated) "WHY?"

We ordered our breakfast from a beautiful woman with grey hair named Carol. She was tickled when Walter ordered his own chocolate milk.  Walter got pancakes and sausage. I got oatmeal and plain coffee. I have another money-making idea for an app that rewards you for every just-ever-so-slightly-healthier choice you make.  Patent pending.  Walter was dismayed by my choice, and kept trying to share his pancakes with me.  "Mama: there are TWO pancakes. You can have one!" I told him he didn't have to eat it all if he didn't want it, and he said, "Oh Mama, you know I want my pancakes."  I also told him I was very happy with my oatmeal, and he thought about that for awhile. "BABIES can't have chocolate milk," he said finally. "But they CAN have oatmeal."

"That's true!" I said. "Except for very little babies, who just drink Mama milk." That lesson in parenting about not constantly correcting/contradicting my child? I am still learning that one. But mostly, Walter doesn't seem to mind. "That's true," he said, taking a thoughtful sip from his chocolate milk.

He sighed. I guessed I knew what he was thinking about.  "Isn't it amazing that Sally's not drinking Mama milk anymore? She's really getting to be a big girl." I said.  "Yeah," he sighed again, and pursed his lips.  He was deciding how to tell me how he was really feeling about that.

"Sally really likes 'other side'" he said, his gaze off to the side somewhere. "Sometimes, she cries for it." He looked up at me. "And sometimes you cry for it, too." He smiled, and giggled gently, the way I do sometimes when I say something uncomfortably true. The giggle that means "my goodness, life is something else, isn't it?"

The morning after I wrote that blog post about Sally weaning and not even asking for "other side" anymore she, of course, started asking for it again. Sally's approach to change is to embrace it wholeheartedly without question for awhile and then reject it for a bit before--slowly, this time--working her way back to acceptance.  I know this about her, but it still surprised me, and hit me pretty hard.  She cried, and when I tried to explain it to Walter that morning, I cried too.

"Do you miss drinking Mama milk and nursing?" I asked. He nodded. "I do," he said. "Maybe you'll miss it less as you get older?" He nodded again and used his straw to get every possible drop of milk, then took the straw out and brought the bottle to his mouth, tilting his head way back and tapping on the bottom of the bottle with his palm.  Then he picked up the straw and sucked the last drops out of that, then looked at me, raised his eyebrows, stuck out his tongue and indicated that he was going to lick a couple stray drops from the straw off of the table. "Ick," I said, and handed him a napkin, which he used to clean up the drops.

I'd been wanting to say something about bigger and better things, about growing up and getting to drink chocolate milk, about all the good things that come in the years after we all leave "other side" behind. But Walter and I both know that it's not as simple as that.  Something is lost.  When something is lost, it's not enough to just say, "move on, it'll get better." Life is good, but also, loss is real.  Contradicting it doesn't help.

We cleaned up the table so thoroughly that we accidentally threw out his happy meal toy.  He didn't notice, but I figured he might eventually, so I explained what happened to Carol and she said, "Let me get you another, dear.  Here, give him two." She gave me a kind smile.  People have been so, so kind to me all week.  I asked Sean if I have a sign on my forehead that says, "Weaning my toddler; feeling fragile and in need of kindness."  I went back to our table and showed Walter the cars.

"One to keep and one to share," he said.
"Who will you share it with?"
"Donna." he said, decisively.
Donna is his teacher at school; she's known him since he was 3 months old. I used to come to Room One and nurse him once a day.  Donna always laughed when he'd fall asleep in my arms, and then woke up when I tried to put him down in his crib.  "I'm so glad he does that to you, too!" she said.

He can't possibly remember any of that--the nursing, the way he hated sleeping in cribs, the way we rolled our eyes and laughed and secretly didn't mind getting to hold him for awhile while he slept.  Maybe he does miss being a baby, though. I miss those days sometimes, too.

As I buckled him into his carseat, Walter asked, "What does 'determined' mean?"  I don't think I'd used the word with him today, although I might have when I was encouraging him to persevere in putting on his own socks. "It means that you keep working on something, even if it's hard and you can't get it right away. Are you determined sometimes?" Walter: "Yes, I sure am." "You sure are. I love it that you are determined. Do you think Sally is determined?" "Yes," said Walter, resolutely. "Sally is very, very determined." "She is, indeed." We shared a knowing smile. That Sally is going to be OK, and we are, too.

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