My oldest son and my gift for worrying were born on the same day.
When Zack was an infant, newly home from arriving in the world, I had a fear of letting him cry. By that, I mean letting him cry at all. One day, after one of those long nights when mommy and he who cried had been up all night, one of my cousins dropped by to see the new addition to the family. When she arrived, I was sitting on the couch and sobbing. She asked what had caused me to be so upset and I told her that I wanted to take a bath.
My cousin blinked a couple of times and said, quietly because she’d dealt with lots of new mothers in the family, “Mary Anne, go take a bath.” I protested that Zack might cry or need me. She said the baby was in his crib and he couldn’t yet walk or roll over. He might get upset, but he wasn’t going to get hurt because mom took a few minutes to bathe. I took the monitor to the bathroom and had a long soak. Mommy felt much better and when Zack woke, he felt better too – especially because mommy felt like playing.
Mommy and Zack enjoyed bath time too. We played games and one of his favorites was making up stories and songs about a little yellow plastic duck. With apologies to the grammar gods, our special song went like this:Him a Mister Duck and him swims in the water and him goes QUACK, QUACK, QUACK ’cause he’s a Duck, it’s what ducks do, them go quack, quack
Each quack got illustrated with a tweak of his tummy or his cheek or a peek-a-boo from mommy. The quacks made him laugh.
When he reached the crawling stage, Zack liked nothing so much as going. He’d take an airing in his stroller if that’s all he could get, but what he loved more than anything was riding in the car. Add that to the fact that the kid was brilliant since birth, and you can understand why he’d try to crawl out the door with any friend or neighbor who’d visited. He’d made the connection that if they left, they were probably getting in a car. The kid wasn’t discriminating – he once tried to crawl out after the Terminex guy who was a complete stranger.
Although he was a happy baby, he learned, as most of them seem to, that crying would get him good stuff. It would get him a bottle or some cereal. As he aged and his parents aged much, much faster, his night time crying got him carried to his parent’s bed. He’d sleep through the night like a little angel. But having found that secure nest, he’d cry if he was put to bed in his own room. One night when he was about two or three, his father decided – ENOUGH! The mother who spoiled the child had given in enough. Daddy would fix this sleeping in his parent’s bed business.
My hubby sat outside the child’s door while he cried for hours. Naturally, I went to bed but couldn’t sleep very well with Zack crying and hubby gritting his teeth and transmitting evil thoughts about mothers who spoil their children. It was about 4 am when John crawled into our bed along with Zack. Yes, the child’s natural ability for stubbornness had triumphed.
As he grew, that stubborn streak grew with him, along with so many wonderful and amazing talents that his parent’s were awstruck. He was first given an IQ test in 1st grade because the school psychologist – who’d been called in by his desperate classroom teacher – suspected that Zack might be acting out because he was bored. The Doc thought that our son might be so gifted that the classroom curriculum being taught to the others was stuff he already knew. The school tested Zack when he was about 7 and discovered he had a Mensa level genius IQ.
I wish I could say that I suspected my son inherited his brains from mommy, but anyone who’s ever seen me try to add more than two numbers together would flat out know I was lying. A kid who enjoys calculus is simply outside of my concept of reality.
But he does enjoy calculus and he did grow. We had many challenges and fought many battles, but he’s grown into a handsome 18 year old who will still let Mom hug him. And this weekend, he’s spent a LOT of time patiently standing on the receiving end of hugs. He’s also let Mom cry on his shoulder and has repeatedly assured me that he’ll always be my son and will always love me. And I knew that was true, but still, I cried a river. I’m still crying.
See, Zack will be loving me from 8 hours away for a while. We moved him into his apartment/dorm at the University of Central Floriday on Friday. Or at least, we started moving him on Friday. It was late Saturday before the stuff was there and Mom had bought him all the groceries he’d allow me to buy. And this morning, Sunday, we had to pack up our car and head home to Myrtle Beach – three instead of four. I’ve warned my youngest son, Sam, that he’ll have to put up with a lot of extra love and attention. My hubby will get some of that extra attention too. I think both my hubby and my youngest are more than a little scared about the prospect.
Relocating Zack TEMPORARILY (His home is in Myrtle Beach ) was very, very traumatic for all of us, but especially for Mom. I started crying before we left home. On the ride there, the radio had to play songs like Bridge Over Troubled Water, and You’ve Got a Friend. Mom reached to the back seat, held Zack’s hand and sobbed. I cried all over Orlando. People in traffic would cast hard looks at my hubby who worked at looking stoic and mostly managed. (Patience is not an endless quality). I cried through the Super Target while we shopped for furnishings and a new TV on Friday. I cried through the Super Target again while we shopped for groceries and miscellaneous kitchen stuff on Saturday. (By and large, John was a true hero who put up with me, didn’t run me over with the car, and lugged things up and down stairs and battled rush hour gridlock during a pouring thunderstorm. Without his Dad, nothing would have been accomplished. All my tears wouldn’t have gotten Zack moved and set up. John’s hard work did that.)
After we’d bought it all, we went to The Titanic Adventure – which was great and I heartily recommend for everyone, but especially for history buffs (Sam was enthralled). I’m sure the cast and others in the audience wondered more than once about the mental stability of the mother who kept bursting out in random sobs and getting hugged and comforted by her oldest son. Hubby’s instructions to cut it out just couldn’t reach my emotions.
On the way home, I insisted we stop for ice trays. UCF’s Tower apartments are top of the line for college housing, but the fridge didn’t have an ice maker and Zack drinks mostly ice water, coffee or green tea. He needs ice. We made a late night run on Saturday on our way back from dinner and the Titanic and stopped at a Walgreens. I ran up to a male and female manager at the front of the store with tears streaming down my face and asked for ice trays. The man claimed they didn’t sell them and looked like he wanted to call security or the guys with the straitjackets. The woman was sympathetic and told me where the ice trays were located. Perhaps she’d sent a child of her own off to college.
When we left on Saturday night, Sam and I were sobbing helplessly, overcome with pain at the coming separation. Hubby held up in manly fashion and told Zack how proud he was and well he was going to do. Zack’s roommate Nathaniel was kind and thoughtful and managed not to dance with glee that the odd crying woman wouldn’t be back for a while. Nathaniel was very much a gentleman and Zack stayed understanding and willing to hug his Mom and to hell with the consequences. None of it helped, because we still had to leave and return to Myrtle Beach.
Zack’s already adjusting much better than his Mom. The folks at UCF have been phenomenal and my son is going to do great. I’m not sure how well his Mom will do, but Zack’s already exploring the campus and studying his books – before the first class and inspired by intellectual curiosity alone.
I’m thinking a lot about Zack’s toddler bathtimes. I finally know the rest of that story – the trouble with Mister Ducks is also the the triumph of Mister Ducks – they grow and learn and start to swim away. Behind them watches Mama Duck with pride in her heart and tears in her eyes.
The world is out there for you son – reach for your dreams and realize that as long as you believe in yourself and you’re willing to work hard, nothing can stop you from reaching every goal and conquering every obstacle.
And never forget that inside each of Mama Duck’s tears is a cheer for the Mister Duck quacking his way to his future.