William has been very different in the past few months. I was waiting for him to turn 4, because I hoped he would be more independent and less emotional with another year of maturity under his belt. He turned 4 in early April, and the change I was looking for didn't come right away, but slowly during May and June he has begun to grow up, just a little, but enough for me to notice.
His dependence on me is something I am not familiar with in my parenting life to this point. Ava as a baby, toddler and child was independent in the extreme. She wasn't cuddly or needy, preferring to do things on her own instead of being helped. I recognized this quality and respected it. I understood that mindset because I have it myself.
William needs help with everything, and clings to me in a way that has never been comfortable for my personality type. He is like a dog where Ava resembles a cat. I have felt smothered by his need for me; it was like an itchy wool blanket on a sweltering day, and I was desperate to get out from under it.
I'm slowly realizing that I was probably like William when I was little. I craved attention from my parents, and remember dancing around the kitchen shouting, "Look at me, look at me!", hoping for them to stop their activity and notice me. As a middle child, I often felt lost in the shuffle between my siblings. My sister was older and got to do everything first, and my brother was the cute baby, celebrated in a way I couldn't replicate.
That vulnerable child is lost forever, buried in layers of cynicism and humour. When we get hurt, we find ways to protect ourselves. I went through years of counseling which helped me get over many destructive patterns that I wasn't at all aware of, but I don't think I really touched on this lost part of myself; that tiny girl who twirled in the kitchen and tried to be noticed. She's still a part of me, lost until this point, and I think I can finally access her through my small son.
This has been a revelation to me. It helps me see him differently, and to look at each irritating thing he does as an opportunity to learn something about myself. He's not trying to frustrate me. He's growing up into himself, a man who will hopefully keep his sensitive and sweet side intact, and one day I'll be grateful for his vulnerabilities and see them as strengths instead of weaknesses.
I'm hoping I can keep his "look at me!" hopefulness alive into adulthood. I want him to sustain that dreamy, wishful outlook, and continue to ask for help from people. I struggled to maintain those things for myself, but I can encourage him to stay on that path and not veer off course. Why shouldn't he aim for the stars and reach them?
When he went to bed last night he complained of a tummy ache. He went to bed at 11 pm on the day we drove to the cabin, and played hard all day yesterday, so we figured he was just exhausted, and told him sleep would fix his sore tummy. He woke up around 9 pm, as we were playing cards and eating junk food, and puked all over Jason, who went to check on him. Vomit in a bed when you have no laundry facilities is an interesting adventure.
We are all living in very close quarters and worried about a stomach flu sweeping through the place, but he slept fine and woke up with no signs of tummy problems. I think he was just overtired, and ate too much fruit. Regardless, his vulnerability was sweet to me last night. I hugged my boy, and I loved him, and I thanked God for his dependent nature, which can lead the way for me to reconnect with my long buried childhood self.