We pulled into the driveway and I looked into the backseat of my car. My strawberry-blonde boy is completely conked out from the 20-minute drive. His peaceful face – calm. His body relaxed – and resting. His being completely comfortable in my car.
My daughter blows me a kiss to my face – and I catch it just before it blows through the window. She giggles and asks me if we should put the cardboard box of ladybugs in the freezer when we get home. She is overflowing with excitement to watch the ladybugs take care of the garden. “Oh, Sis, we should place the box in the fridge so they stay cool. The freezer is for popsicles.” She responds with a gentle and affirming, “Okay, Mommy.”
I love my kids.
As we get out of the car, my daughter zooms through the car and grabs her pink-and-purple striped purse. She bops outside and begins to dance. Arms high and her small hips moving from left to right – and then again. She is the spirit I truly wish I could embody every minute.
While my daughter dances, I gently unbuckle my sleeping son from his booster. I pick him up – as I do after 90% of our car-rides – and I carry him inside to their dad’s home and then to the couch. He is exhausted from being. From trying so hard every day. From processing what something means. From the sounds that bounce around him all day. I lay him to rest … and his dad places a heavy quilt over him. …
… and then I give my daughter a big kiss on the tip-top of of her head. “Sissy, I love you to pieces. I’ll see you in two days.” She replies with her typical, “Okay, Mommy.”
Part of the mom in me feels guilty for leaving before my son wakes from his mid-day slumber. However, the part of me that has worked with a child psychologist for almost three years now, knows that it is healthy to follow-through with drop-offs and transitions. I say a silent prayer for my kiddos (like I do every day) and I walk to my car.
And then, it happens. My son wakes up. He bolts out to the car and throws opens his door. He crawls into the rear of the car and hides himself into the trenches of a blanket. “No, no, no, no,” he begins to say. His still tired body rocks back-and-forth as he chants, again, “No, no, no, no.” I look out the front window of my car and see his dad shrug his shoulder and pass me a $20 bill. I know what this $20 bill is for. And so, I start the car and ask my son to buckle up.
We are starting the beginning of a long transition.
“No, no, no, no…” I hear over and over and over. We pull into the local 7-11 store – our usual first-stop when the transitions begin this way. I look at my son who has no shoes on his feet, only gray socks, his athletic shorts, and his Flash tee-shirt. He grabs my hand and we walk into the 7-11. Cherry Slurpees are great for transitions … at least they usually are for my son. The cool taste of cherry and the feeling of cold rushing through his body … Yes, this is something that helps my son to get “un-stuck.”
We get back into the car and I begin to hear my son rapping. Yes, rapping. With the gestures and the lyrics and the beat. He raps the entire way back to his dad’s home. He raps about wanting to spend a few more hours with me. He raps that it isn’t fair that he have two homes. He raps about his distaste for the new pretzels I bought a few days ago. And I listen.
And I move through it with him.
When I look at this, I see two things happening. I see my son responding with a feeling (No!) and then relaxing with son (his rap music). Some may say that his dad and I enable this behavior – this pattern. However, after three years of practice with transitions, I have learned. We have learned. When the “No, no, no, no” and the rocking of the body begin, then we know.
And sometimes, this works. Sometimes my son can shift and move gracefully to his dad’s home. However, this wasn’t how it worked yesterday. The rest of my day included driving my son around town listening to him rap to me. It included FaceTime phone calls to loved ones. It was listening to classical music and then to Disney tunes and then to his favorite Manheim Steamroller soundtrack.
It was moving through the transition with my son – and not placing judgement on the process. It was about allowing it to happen (and consequently cancelling the rest of my day). It was about understanding that my son transitions – and moves through things at his own pace.
And after all of this, my son finally says, “Okay, Mom. I’m ready.” And I respond with, “Alright, Buddy.” His voice is firm and clear and filled with intention. He truly is ready. And so, three-hours later we re-emerge at his dad’s home. I give my daughter another big squeeze and my son a high-five. I tell him that I’m proud of him. I’m proud of his bravery and his ability to move through his emotions. He smiles and walks with his sister and his dad into their home.
And my heart smiles.
So, my hope for those of you who read this blog is to understand that the crying child in the parking-lot, the little boy who will only speak in song, the mother who just allows it to happen … it is for a reason. It is because that mother (me) is allowing her child to move through it.