Let me break it down.
I’m making instant decaf, black with four sugar cubes for Mom, who tried to get up but would really rather not this time, so would you mind dear, just this once bringing me some coffee while I set up the Scrabble…"Too bad Sam doesn’t want to play? Sam…?"
I was in the kitchen when she was saying that, and he was coming at me, making some noise, about his itchy big toe. I chose to ignore his familiar whine and check his toe out instead….. I pointed him over to the big chair, where the best natural light is in our living room, and noticed, in fact, a certain inflamed redness around the nail. Sat him down. Told him his feet were really disgusting, so could I just please cut his toenails? (….Or else.... I’m trying to think fast…). “MOM!”
(I'm brought back to now.)
“That’s not the issue. My toe is itchy,” he says fervently and with accusation.
Minutes before he had introduced his offending nail to me, amidst several quasi-back- flipping cartwheels on the rug, he was complaining that I hadn’t yet arranged his play date with the same three brothers he’s played with and whose family he’s essentially lived with since school let out on Friday.
I had said “Honey, I just want 15 minutes with you. Don’t you want to play with Mom for 15 minutes? Then I’ll call.” Cause really, I could enjoy the afternoon without him: I could take a nap; I know those brothers wanted him back; and I could finish the Scrabble game with Mom…and then there was my daughter’s Science project looming….
I just wanted 15 minutes connect time.
“Nooooooo Mooooommmmmm. Call them now, ppppplllllleeeeeaaaassseeee.”
So, I was kind of pleeeeaaaasssseeeed with this sudden toe issue. With my hands enjoying that he’s letting me touch him and gently guide his body down into the big chair, I said “Hey, you sit, I’ll get a warm pail of water and you can soak your feet. Maybe that will help that toe…cause it does look like it needs some attention? Whadya think? And you can just sit there and IPAD for a while.” I’m smiling that Mom smile.
He brightens up.
“Ok, that sounds cool. Uh, and I could use a snack.”
This is one thing I excel at. Pampering with little bits of food on trays and catering toward basic needs. I’m in my game.
I run off to get that very practical plastic white tub ….heat up some water, prepare nutella toast and milk, fill tub with water, place at Sam’s feet with a towel for spillage…..and then extract a promise that he will in fact let me cut his toenails...
Quietly now, “Yea sure, Mom, whatever. Can you plug in the adapter, my battery is almost dead.”
Yes, of course I can.
Back to the Scrabble game while his feet soak. At least three of us are in the same room sharing space. My mother, once the family Scrabble champion takes her full two minutes to think, and then puts down BIG as her first word. Followed by FAT, then JAM.
Mine were: GIVES, SWEATS and MOODY.
She winks at me after JAM, “This game may too hard for a ten-year old, huh, takes lots of skill.” She still has a sense of humor.
We take a break for a walk around the block. I chat with her about my two latest triumphs: business plan this, financial plan that. She seems to be listening. Then, a little deep breath that makes her wobble.
“Darling, ah, I forgot my candies, my throat, it’s so dry, I’m so thirsty…we need to turn around.”
“Uh, of course, sure, let’s turn around….” We’ve made it past five houses. Did I forget to bring her candies with us? Again?
I note that on our ship I am the captain…and in these waters I must head north and vigilantly readjust to stay on course…. Praise the Lord!
Back in the house, my son wants his water heated up and I do so… it’s too hot to put his feet back in so I get down on the floor to trim those toenails while the water cools. And he lets me. He lets me care for him. He trusts me to be gentle, to not take forever, to do this thing I feel I must though it means absolutely nothing to him. It’s meaningful to me for the contrast.
Somewhere along the road --was it the first year when his sister took so much energy for me to merely navigate that he naturally gravitated to his father; the second year when we all moved to another country in search of stability, or the third year when his father and I divorced? -- he seemed to put up walls around his heart. And resistance around following my simple rules with those moving boundary lines. And then so much more life happened.
I know there is something in the way we relate today, amidst the daily living that goes on here, that is just easier, more flowing and joyful, fundamentally more loving. I credit the Nurtured Heart Approach for helping me to stay on course. It’s not always obvious how it’s working in us, but I know the change is living in us and I can feel it in the simplest of things.