As of late, Sean has been trying to convince me that he is over being a baby, that being a baby is so yesterday, that he has moved on, that he has joined the ranks of the big boys.
But like a politician, his actions don’t always line up with his words.
The other day as we were leaving the house for a play date, he ran back to his bedroom and grabbed Mr. Monkey to take with him in the car. As we are walking towards the garage, I notice his grimy little boy fingers, set to automatic, busily working and petting Mr. Monkey’s muzzle. Mr. Monkey used to have a nose and a mouth. But they have long since been loved off.
His fingers are long and delicate and even pretty. I remember how I marveled at them, the first time I saw them, how fragile and breakable they felt in my hand, how they moved as though powered by batteries. I was fascinated by his fingernails, miniature and as fine as tissue paper. The thought of trimming those itty bitty fingernails terrified me.
I still marvel at those fingers although now they are scraped up and have a good amount of dirt under the nails which need to be trimmed. Even so, they are still long and delicate, and even pretty.
As we walked towards the car, I watched him out of the corner of my eye, his fingers methodically twitching over Mr. Monkey’s muzzle. I wondered if he was feeling anxious about the play date. Then he turned to me and said, “Mom, I don’t care for cartoons anymore. Those are for babies. I prefer real shows with real people, like The Food Network and Survivor Man.”
“Oh really?” I said more than asked.
I was struck by the composition, the stark contrast between the boy clutching Mr. Monkey and the same boy telling me he has moved beyond childish cartoons.
He is conflicted. He is a boy wobbling and balancing on a high wire between two worlds. On one side of the wire is a soft and sweet and safe place, where all the anxiety and ills of life can be soothed by a fraying and well loved monkey. On the other side is a not safe and not soft world that calls to him to come taste new and exciting things. And he is conflicted. He wants to live in both worlds.
I’m conflicted. I want him to live in both worlds. And daily we swing wildly between the two.