Yesterday, Raw was fixated on carving his pumpkin. Fixated. Did I mention fixated? He progressed from “When are we going to carve our pumpkin, Mommy?”, to “I want to carve the pumpkins TODAY!” to “MOMMY! I WANT TO CARVE THE PUMPKIN!”. I desperately needed to nap for half an hour, James was out of town and we had a lot to do- homework, Elizabeth’s soccer practice, dinner, clean….All typical things, but made harder when I’m the sole focus of the intensity that is our typical evening. However, he was fixated on the pumpkin. I tried to deflect him by promising that we could carve it on Saturday, right before the Georgia/ Florida football game- and with James’ help (which would mean that James would do all the yucky parts. Elizabeth has inherited her “ewww” gene from me.)
Ray would not be deflected. He couldn’t do his homework, he just kept repeating over and over again “I want to carve the pumpkin, I want to carve the pumpkin.” There are times that Ray is in charge, and there are times that his anxiety is in charge. His anxiety had decided that carving the pumpkin was going to cure things. I reconsidered, shifted tactics and said that we could carve the pumpkin when he finished homework, ate dinner and helped me clean up and it could be done during Elizabeth’s soccer practice. “I want Daddy to help me with MY pumpkin,” Elizabeth informed him. I knew that the pumpkin was tied to Ray’s anxiety when he wasn’t shifted by this- normally, he would never allow Elizabeth to have an experience with Daddy without him along. When sibling rivalry doesn’t shift his focus, it’s serious.
So, we were going to carve the pumpkin. We were going to drop Elizabeth off at soccer practice and come home and carve. I wasn’t even sure if you could carve a pumpkin in 45 minutes. And we couldn’t find the special little pumpkin knives that help design patterns- all I had was the big carving knife.
As we pulled into the driveway, his friend Lucas was on his bike waiting for him there with his big brother Bryce. “Oh no,” whispered Ray.
“You can still wait until Saturday to carve it with Daddy,” I offered. Yay- perhaps I could get that nap after all! Quick emphatic head shake from Ray. No. And he went silent. And I knew- if he was turning down bike riding with friends, he really had fixated on pumpkin carving as the solution to… something.
As we got out of the car, I waited for him to say something, but he got out of the car as if they weren’t even there. As though if he ignored them completely, they wouldn’t be there. There was an awkward silence that seemed to stretch…
“Hey, guys!” I started.
“We came over to see if someone could play,” offered Lucas.
“Oh, guys, that’s awfully nice, but Ray has a project he’s got to finish. Maybe this weekend?” I offered.
Here it is… the Eddie Haskell moment… “We weren’t talking about Ray- we were hoping that maybe YOU could play with us!” he said with a flirtatious glint in his eye and a mischievious grin on his face. The kid is 8 years old and is savvy enough to flirt with his friends’s mother.
I felt myself simpering. I watched myself laughing with him. I saw myself charming him back- “Well, maybe next time, I’ll take you up on that!” I felt very middle-aged.
Ray and I went inside and we carved his pumpkin. He relaxed as he dug out the seeds (not well- he also has a touch of the “ewww” gene). He started talking about other things when I pulled out the triangles of pumpkin shell for the eyes. He got a smile when he pulled out the chunks between the teeth. He put a candle in it to welcome James when he got home and his face shone with joy when the clumsy gap-toothed smile of his jack-o-lantern shone brightly on our porch.
As I tucked him into bed last night, I asked him why it was so important to him. He just shrugged and couldn’t tell me, but I saw another gap-toothed grin, his this time, as he snuggled down and closed his eyes. Daddy was home, his jack-o-lantern was carved, and all was well in his world.