I found myself with just George on yesterday's crisp late-November afternoon, with nothing pressing to do. We grabbed a stroller and snacks and walked 9 blocks to a park on the foot of Mount Tabor. I was so delighted when I first saw this playground--the older 70's metal play equipment and each feature--swings, slide, tetter totters, and merry-go-round--are all spaced out over a lovely slope canopied by large trees with golden leaves. The grass is completely covered with a crunchy leafy carpet. I was surprised to see the merry-go-round at all, as they have been removed from every other public park; I think the city might have forgotten about this one.
George was all abuzz and quickly met another little girl just younger than him, named Amia. She started off as the chatty one, but George quickly out chatted her into silence and awe. The adults stood around and exchanged pleasant conversations ourselves, and giggled and smiled at the toddler entertainment. It was a really nice time.
Toward the end, another group had joined us, a new walker who braved the spinning wonder with her mother. George decided to get off and help push, but somehow he tripped and since I wasn't looking, I am not sure exactly what happened, if his foot or shoulder got caught under for a moment. We all glanced over and paused to see if he was okay, and at first he did pop back up and brush off. For a moment, he seemed fine. Just as I was turning back to my conversation, I saw a look pass over his face. His bottom lip came out, his skin whitened, and he began to frantically push his way around the other children toward me. We could all see a great turmoil about to spill over and I knelt down to receive him. When he secured his little arms and legs around me and buried his head in my neck, he let out a deep cry of anguish followed by a gravelly scream, and then melted into sobs. The depth of his emotion took me by surprise and I choked up myself, to be heart to heart with him during this intense release, that seemed unlike his usual reaction. I got the sense that he was not physically hurt, but that he had almost been badly injured and it had rattled him to the core, took him by surprise and also embarrassed him by so swiftly taking away his "leader of the babies" good time he was having.
When he finally spoke, it was a heaving, "Don't let them look at me." I walked him over to a tree in the distance, and he said, "I wish I could climb up in that tree where no one could see me," and I soothed and listened to him. In a minute, his little friend came over to say goodbye and wish him well soon. It was a darling gesture, but he was still too angry to receive, so I thanked her for him and told her I hoped we'd see her again. George eventually recovered, and was soon running down the leafy hill with delight.
While this sounds like a typical play-ground interaction, and there is truth to that, I'll share why it was so profound for me. Over the last year, my little boy has been very explosive, which has never been his typical temperament. Something has seemed troubled in his soul. I know that much of it has to do with my own anger and explosiveness. I have for years been preoccupied with my own pain and dysfunction in my marriage. Then there is the trickle down effect: if Mayan has a problem that she can't process (and she is approaching her adolescence rapidly) she will take it out on Isadore, who will take it out on George....who then will kick the cat. There has been so much upheaval in our lives and while it affects us all, it's the littlest ones that have the hardest time telling us what they are going through. I am finally to a place where my marriage is a source of strength, and feel like I can give the children the focus they deserve and assist in their healing process. Since our ritual the other evening, where we let go of something from the past that didn't serve us (mine centered around my anger) and made space to bring in something more constructive (relating to patience,) I have felt more connected to George, and able to hear him more clearly and offer him what he needs to feel accepted. The reason I was so stunned by the playground scene was that a few months ago, George would have immediately reacted with violence. But instead he knew that from across that platform, I was waiting there to catch him, to hold his feelings, and to be his safe place. I have to honor and maintain that, as being that soft place to fall, I think is the ultimate goal of a mother. I have failed at that time and time again, but I am rebuilding, and the proof was in that moment. Thank you for letting me receive you in your moment of need, and for your redemption. I love you, Georgie Boy!