Over the five and a half years that I've spent as a Mother, I've experienced Maternal Disconnect on a few occasions. It happened when Evan was an infant and was diagnosed as "colicky." I felt like I was missing something because "colicky" didn't seem to describe the baby I was looking at/caring for/sobbing over. I felt disconnected, only to find out later, [ahem] I was right.
I felt it again when I was weaning Max. That time, the Maternal Disconnect was biological... evolutionary, even. I was physically separating from him and encouraging his independence in sustenance. And, I could see the disconnect for what it was: a temporary, healthy, and chosen thing.
And then, there was the disconnect I felt when Evan went through his I'm-Three-Years-Old-and-I-Hate-the-World phase. Wowzers. Those were six months during which I don't think my feet touched the ground, so forming deeper, more meaningful bonds with my hellion? Didn't happen.
This one's different. Because this time, it's....forever.
Evan started school.
I'm thrilled for this because it's school. And I loved school (eventually). And he loves school. And he's learning and he's growing and he's experiencing and he's discovering.....but he's doing it without me. He shares some stories with me, and tells me about what he's learning...but I'm not there. And he's there more than he's here. And I miss him.
And School? That's his World. He gets to choose when and if to let me in...and how far. And I won't pry further. And it KILLS me not to. I, naturally, want to know everything.
He's getting Older. He's still a cuddly, snuggly guy....but only when he wants to be. He'll wipe off my kisses and wriggle away from a hug with a very tween-sounding, "Mooooommmmm," when he's not in the mood. He prefers Sam's bedtime tuck-ins to mine, too, lately. So there are fewer Quiet Talks in the Dark than there were when he was little. And that's not temporary. And it's not chosen. (At least not by me.)
So what to do about this disconnect? How do I maintain (or reclaim?) a piece of Us? And...is it possible to come up with a way to Connect that will grow as he grows?
I started the book. I wrote a note....not a love note, just a note. And I put it on his pillow. When he found it, he asked about it. I read him the note and invited him to respond..."But don't write in it now," I said. "Write me a note when you have something to say but it's not a good time to say it out loud." And then, to capitalize on his current interest: "And be ninja-ish about it! Don't tell me you've written me a note; sneak it into my room! Hide it! I'll find it."
It sat, untouched, on his nightstand for a few days. And then, he came into Molly's room one afternoon while I was putting her down for a nap. It was taking longer than usual and, after his third peek in to see how much longer, I whispered, "Please don't come in anymore. Every time you come in, she wakes up and it takes more time to get her back to sleep."
When she was finally out, I tip-toed out of her room to see a smiling Evan standing in the hallway. "Oh, Mooo-ooommm!" he said, in a sing-song voice. "Don't you want to look behind your lovely pillow?" Smooth. I feigned surprise when I looked and saw the notebook there. He had written his first note: "MOM PLS PLA WF US" [Mom, please play with us.] with a picture of a happy mommy with, inexplicably, a large belly button.
I almost cried.
Since then, we've written a few notes each. We're limited somewhat because I only write what he can read by himself or with a little help...but that will change, in a good way, as he gets older. I just hope that as he does, he keeps wanting to write...to share....to stay connected.
Yesterday after school, as we played Ninjago, Evan mentioned one of the kids in his class by name. I asked him who else was a good friend in his class. After listing several names, he said, "But not X. Not really at all." I asked him what made him say that and he looked down and said, "I don't want to tell you." I assured him that he could tell me anything and that, especially when someone isn't making good choices or is hurting someone else, it's Important to tell a grown-up. He still resisted: "I know, I just don't want to say this." Well, now, I was worried. What was going on?
"You know," I started, "If you don't want to talk to me, you can talk to Daddy...or your teacher..." [and then it hit me...] "Or you could write about it in our Notebook!" He looked up at me, I continued: "Sometimes it's easier to write about something than it is to talk about." He changed the subject back to Ninjago. After a few minutes, he told me what had been bothering him....a student in his class has trouble "remembering her manners" he said, and more, she doesn't always listen to Mrs. C and that makes him feel "uncomfortable." Because he loves his teacher so much, I think Evan feels protective of Mrs. C...and feels personally affronted when others don't show her due respect.
As his mother, this fills my heart right up. He's a good boy. I hope he always feels "uncomfortable" when people are being disrespectful to others (I just hope that, one day, he feels comfortable enough to stand up for the disrespected instead of internalizing it). And I hope he remembers what I told him about using our Notebook to say the hard things. Or the easy things. Or anything...I just want to always know what he has to say.