I watch my happy, chirpy son these past few days, and I wonder how he can switch so fast from one extreme to another- how he can change his mood, his outlook and his behavior that leaves the rest of us gasping. And exhausted.
Sunday was the day before James was to come join us. Camp is over, which means that there is no schedule, there is no routine and there is no structure. Which means that Ray was completely beside himself.
My mom and I took the children to the Santa Fe Children’s Museum this past Sunday. It was relatively quiet, and Elizabeth was in her element- face painting- ahhh the sensuality of that activity! Bubbles- ahhh- the sensuality of that activity! And designing roll patterns for balls to roll down- ahhh- the intellectualism of that activity! She waited, patiently, for her turn on the rock climbing wall, and didn’t even sulk when the place closed before they could get to her. She played with the puppets, played with the concaves of sound that transported whispers over a huge distance. She remembered when she made fairy houses two years ago and was deeply confused because she knew, she truly knew that fairies weren’t real, and yet the adults- the ones who knew better- were telling her to make small houses for these wee creatures. She made them, and then proceeded to look for fairies everywhere. This past Sunday, she chuckled at her little-girl self who didn’t recognize the line between imagination and reality. Elizabeth had a wonderful time.
Ray… Ray stood in the middle of the room and rocked. I have never in my memory seen him literally wringing his hands from anxiety and rocking side to side. Rocking, rocking. Watching, watching. I sat down at the side and he sat next to me, curling up his arms around his head like a pretzel and rocking for several minutes. I talked- using my chatter so that he could “see” what was around him, so that the stream of words could help him ease back from what ever abyss he was staring into. “Look Ray, see the little girl lifting the bubble wands? She’s got a triangle-shaped one! It’s amazing how even a triangle shape makes a funny-shaped curved bubble! And my goodness- I can see the albino frogs from here- they sure have white bellies, don’t they? Do you see the balls moving down those wavy things? That’s using friction and force when they crash into each other. See how the two balls stop dead when they crash? When they’re going the same speed, neither one has enough force to move the other one anywhere…” I chattered, pulled all of my long-forgotten physics knowledge off of my memory shelf and tried to reach my child.
He watched for over an hour, until the rhythms of animals eased him out of his scary place. He watched a snake eat a mouse, and while I was grossed out, the normalness of eating, the basic necessity of eating, brought him out of his shell. He finally interacted with the pin activity where you press all of the plastic pins in and then go around to the other side and press parts of your body against it. It’s a very sensual, pin-pricky activity, and one that he pressed his hands in- again and again. Talk about being on pins-and-needles…
And the next day, he woke up chirpy. Monday, the tension was eased. He was happy to go and get James from the airport. His waiting for Daddy was over. He was resistant to eating, of course (some things never change), but he was back to “Ray”. I, however, am haunted by the vision of his overwhelming anxiety as he rocked and rocked, wringing his hands. He might have recovered, but I will take a little time.