My son loves to move. Every time we get into the car, we have a race to see who can run the fastest. He is always demonstrating a new move he can do which lately involves gymnastic-like jumps off the couch. So really, I should not be surprised.
Last night, we went to a dance concert to see his godmother dance. For the last few years, I haven't taken him since it's in a formal setting meaning a chair and the understanding that he has to sit still. But leaving him at home means paying a sitter. It's expensive and we don't have a lot right now. Plus he complains stating that he wants to go too. So I decided this year to take him.
Four year old boys can't sit in formal chairs in a new place without talking or moving or trying to kick someone for more than 30 seconds. Before the show even started, I was plagued with guilt for everyone around us. My attention was divided between his body and the stage. We moved to a new location after intermission to give him more space to move. It helped and exhausted me at the same time. In that quiet space, my son knew that I could not verbally scold him. I had to let it happen. His movements included jumping, climbing and chewing on his water bottle.
Most people were unaware of this struggle. My son's outbursts were typically at the end of every number when clapping was happening and the lights were dimmed. He looked handsome in his collar shirt. He got to see his god parents, but I made a decision right there.
Minus work and my random acts of exercise on the treadmill, I don't have a lot of things that are just for me. He does - dance class, swimming lessons, play time, etc. I was looking forward to the dance concert and seeing my old dance friends again. Instead of chatting with anyone, I had to stay on top of my son.
I know. He has to learn how to sit still. It's a skill just like walking, running and climbing. Right now, he is not there yet. I told him in the car that next time, there will be a babysitter. He was upset. He refused to sleep in protest. At 11pm, I found him asleep in the fetal position on the floor with his lights on in his bedroom. This morning, we chatted about it. I reminded him that moving is just part of his nature and learning to be still is a skill that he hasn't acquired yet.
So my son is learning to sit still and I am learning that it's OK to put him in another person's care for a moment and be present somewhere else. It seems silly I know, but this lesson for me seems so hard to learn.
This week, my son's allergies and asthma knocked us back a few days. I was worried that he had a stomach issue as well so I insisted that the doctor's office see him. It's 4:30pm, the end of a long, vomiting day. My son is tired wanting to be carried everywhere. His name is called in the lobby and I stand still carrying him. He is about to throw up.
Like every visit before this one, the first thing they do is weigh him to help dose his medicine just right. My son refuses to let go of me and holds my hand on the scale. We both look exhausted and carry a slight vomit smell on us.
The nurse asks, "Are you the mom"?
I get it. I am white, he is black, we don't match. I pause, bite my tongue and say yes.
She places us in our room. We wait. We are outside the area where other kids are being weighed. No one else is asked that question. Instead, the nurse immediately calls every woman "Mom" and every man "Dad".
I am sitting on the examination table beside my son trying not to think about the question, but I can't. My son is analyzing the poster on the wall. I can't stop thinking. One thought, "Why didn't I ask are you the nurse?" I stew a bit in my juices then my son throws up all over the examination room floor. My focus changes to cleaning it up as quickly as possible.
I understand the need for this question. Medical professionals can't assume we belong together even though his arms and legs are wrapped around me, he is calling me Mommy and not letting me out of his sight. But why do they assume with everyone else? Why not ask every parent if they are the parent?
I need to get over this. This is just one question in a lifetime of questions like this. I need thicker skin and a sense of humor. I need a snappy comeback. I need to be a role model for my son. But sometimes, I just get mad. And tired. My son and I never think about being different in our world. Everyone who knows us knows we are bound together. Yet, every time we enter the medical arena, I get this feeling that we are outsiders. Why can't this question change?