I looked out my office window a little while ago because Zachary was shrieking. Zachary rarely shrieks.
What I saw was him standing, outside, with his pants down around his ankles. Underwear, too. I flipped out.
Not a little, but a lot.
What happened was his brothers, being the funny guys they are, had stuffed leaves down his pants while they were attempting to rake up a leaf pile. Started with throwing some leaves back and forth. Pretty normal kid stuff. Zachary, miserable with the scratchy leaves and completely comfortable with his body, pulled his pants down to remove the leaves and was yelling at his brothers for being such jerks.
No, they should not have been stuffing leaves down each other’s pants. No, Zachary should not have tried to immediately remove the offending leaves, instead should have opted to go inside and take care of it. Of course I would have yelled at him for dragging leaves in the house but who would think the alternative would be to be half naked- the important half- in the front yard. Shrieking.
But what I saw will give me nightmares. It is the melding of my young son’s vulnerability with my own. For a moment, I cannot separate the two. I screamed at all of them to get inside NOW and go to their rooms NOW. I was shaking. I was having a completely overblown reaction to a fairly mild incident.
It has nothing to do with my children. Zachary was fine. He is fine. I have created a safe life for him. Herein lies my challenge as a parent. It’s not about them. I project all my fears about my own safety, my own fears onto them. The image is not of my son. It is of me. The line gets blurry. My heart starts to pound. I see the exposure and it is my exposure. He is mad about leaves.
I am not seeing leaves. I’m seeing hands gripping me.
I have to stay clear. I have to see the lines. Otherwise my anger, my fear, my rage will spill into their experience and make them cautious when there is no need to be cautious. Afraid of some unseen demon that haunts me, not them. I don’t want them afraid. It is a horrible way to live.
I called them downstairs. I explained, calmly, I did not want to see that again. I explained it is not okay to have your pants down in the front yard, in the back yard, or in any yard. No one should be jamming leaves into anyone else’s pants. It’s about privacy and personal space. Don’t jam them down someone’s shirt. Don’t jam them anywhere. They are leaves. Jump in them. God only knows what you’ve raked up. Sticks. Dog poop. Trash. Just jump in them.
Yeah, sorry, Mom.
They are all very quiet. They don’t like it when I yell- really yell. It frightens them.
Clearly, I am all ready to go to Rochester tomorrow. Anxiety packed, complete loss of reality to be placed in the overhead bin and fear tucked in a quart sized Ziploc bag- no more than three ounces.
I need to remember, there are no hands.
It was just leaves.