“Mom, what is this?” said the Pterodactyl, pointing to a spot below his bottom lip. “It hurts.” I looked.
“It’s a pimple,” I said.
“WHAT? WHY DO I HAVE A PIMPLE?”
“Well, maybe because you’re growing up. Maybe you’re getting close to puberty,” I mused, although in hindsight, it probably resulted from not bathing.
I offered to pop it for him, because that’s what I do, even it could lead to an infection and partial
amputation of his entire chin. I’m a risk-taker.
We went back and forth about that option while he tried some self-healing. He iced it. He put a hot compress on it, then iced it again. We put some antibiotic cream on it, then he wiped it off. It was a tiny fucking zit! I just wanted to pop it and be done with it, but he was scared it would hurt. Eventually, the problem devolved into compulsive screeching on his part, deep hyperventilation breaths on my part, and the Tyrant’s extreme frustration at not being able to hear who was getting kicked off The Bachelorette.
Later, the boy’s voice sunk to its lowest pitch, the sound he makes right before Meltdown, and he whined: I need a hug. So I hugged him, and we sat down, and I rubbed his back, and I asked him why he felt sad.
“I’m worried about the future,” he said, burying his face into my shoulder.
“You mean middle school?” I asked. Because I’m worried about that, too. My darling Diva – confident, kind, and lovely – sailed through middle school. My little bub – unsure, shy, anxious – well, I fear it won’t be the same for him.
Yes, he answered. “But I’m worried about leaving you,” he added.
“Why would you leave us?”
“When I grow up! How am I gonna learn all the stuff I have to know? I don’t think I can do it! I don’t want to leave you guys!” Cue the tears rolling down his cheek and past the little pimple. I held him tightly and said the right things – that he never has to leave if he isn’t ready, and we’ll help him prepare for everything, and he can stay with us forever if he wants. I quietly tamped down my tiny house dream and imagined a place with a garage apartment.
I’ve gotten so good at predicting his fears and identifying the triggers, but every so often I miss one. The pimple led me to mention puberty, which made him worry about growing up, which made him panic about leaving the one place in the world where he feels safe – here, home, with us.
This damn Anxious Attachment Disorder. It will always be with us. We must always be cognizant of how it changes his view of the world and creates enormous problems out of small moments. He has so much to learn, and it terrifies me because it terrifies him.
Yesterday, I watched him surfing – paddling hard and standing up unsteadily, heading back out again and again,
longing to be a part of the waves even as they pushed him down and under. After a while, he trudged to shore and started looking for shark teeth in the clear shallows. I told him I’d never ever found one, though I’ve lived in Florida for 22 years. Just keep looking, Mom, he said, so I did, the two of us, side by side, and suddenly, I spotted one, and then another. You did it, he shouted, and hugged me. It occurred to me that perhaps I still have a lot to learn, too. Maybe, I decided, we could learn together, and everything would be okay.