Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Six Year Old Version

Judah recently turned the big SIX and I'm still reeling at the thought.

Almost every day concludes with me staring at this tall lanky boy and wondering - did I ever cradle you in my arms? (yes) Were you ever ridiculously chubby? (yes) How can you be such a fully formed human being when for so long you were just a sweet little blob?

As a baby and toddler Judah was incredibly demanding, constantly talking, wanting to be interacted with, eschewing all toys for PEOPLE. REAL PEOPLE ONLY! Okay, actually, it was more like MOMMY. MOMMY ONLY. ALL THE TIME.

I used to despair that I would ever get more than 10 seconds of breathing space from him. No seriously, I often Googled "emotionally needy child" in search of relief.

And now. Now, he is my flexible, easy-going, mellow, compassionate, eager to please guy who is happy to spend long hours doing his own thing. I don't even know this guy. Seriously, some aliens came in the night and replaced him.

So here he is at Six!

See the resemblance? The night you turned six, in the blink of an eye.

At the beginning of his 5th year Judah was sure he wanted to be a ninja assassin and therefore would not get married as to not risk leaving his poor wife bereaved, you know, an assassin being such a dangerous line of work.

Judah and sweet friends at his much belated party

And then, all of a sudden, in the middle of his 5th year, Judah declared he was going to be a home-stay dad (he means stay-at-home dad), a throw-back to his aspirations from his 4 year old self. Just like that, he wanted a life of domesticity and care-taking.

And then, just a few weeks ago, Judah announced that his one goal in life was to be a jungle survivalist. He wants to learn how to live by himself in the wild - hunt, build fires, make camp, forage for food, etc. I have to say, this last career change has really caught me by surprise.

And I'm a little sad that he so badly seeks isolation. So I asked if I could accompany him on his jungle adventures and he said, yes. But only me.

And then I remembered how I wanted to be a cowgirl and live 3 hours away from civilization on a remote homestead in which I grew my own food and raised and butchered my own livestock and suddenly, Judah's aspirations aren't seeming so weird to me anymore.

Noah takes out all his jealous rage on Judah's pinata - he still claims it was his "worsest" day ever.

It makes even more sense when I realize that Judah, like me, is extremely sensitive to other people's feelings. Judah will often do things that he doesn't innately want to because he's worried the other person will be mad at him. He is a classic people-pleaser and will avoid conflict at all cost.

This makes it extremely easy for Judah to make friends and get along with pretty much anyone. Even in the most heightened competitive situations (which happens often with 5 year old boys who will turn everything into a "race") Judah will purposely let the other party win out of pity and concern for that person's feelings.

But it's exhausting. You feel like you're never free. Always beholden. Constantly on alert. Though Judah got along well with all his kindergarten classmates, he never considered anyone a safe place to land. A haven of free expression. A let-it-all-hang-out, come-just-as-you-are, just-be-yourself kind of friend.

I feel for him. Cuz I know all too well. It's a long lonely road for the likes of us.

And a shy road. Judah loves singing and praying but he will rarely do it in front of us. He will share his most silly or non-personal songs, but the most heartfelt ones about loving Jesus and caring for the poor, he reserves.

I find the best way to get Judah to open up about his personal life is to go for a walk. Something about stretching our legs towards a stretched out world loosens the jaw and vise-like grip he constantly has on his heart. I can see a lot of hiking in our future.

Because I can sense that Judah is slowly walling himself off. Self-consciously editing. Already he is critical of his own natural self.

He tells me he hates the shape of his face. He wishes it were rounder, not so long and sharp. Rounder like me and Noah.

He tells me he hates his dark skin tone. He wishes it were lighter. Peach toned, like me and Noah.

He is ashamed that he can't do the monkey bars and can't swim yet. So ashamed he told me he never wants to set foot near a pool again, although he absolutely loves playing in the water.

And of course it breaks my heart, but at least he tells me.

At least, for now, he tells me.

I wonder how much longer he'll permit me to accompany him on his lone survivalist wanderings.


mp said...

This is such a beautiful & thoughtful look at your son - you inspire me to do something similar! Even though we're together all the time, I rarely think about him this holistically.

Alice in Wonderland said...

I highly encourage you to do so MP! I didn't connect a lot of the dots for Judah until I started writing that post. Something about writing just makes the whole process of synthesis flow.