"We are going to go to someone's house today. There will be lots of kids and you can play." I tell him. It's the usual morning run down and he's trying to put as much oatmeal onto his spoon as he can- I'm not sure at first that he hears me.
But after scooping a mile-high helping into his mouth he looks at me, "Joe and Judah's house?" He knows his rythms and we missed our usual play-date with Joe and Judah this week.
"No, this is going to be a new house." I admit, falsely cheerful. He is thinking, I can tell by the way his spoon is held, suspended before his bowl, and I hold my bread.
"Has they been to my house before?" he asks.
"No...but you have seen them at the mommy meeting. Remember baby Becky? You like that baby."
He looks at me again, good and long this time. It's almost as if he is weighing my feelings, the same way I am weighing his.
Thinking about it, he probably is. This is Zeke after all. The kid that reads my emotions as if they were written on my forehead. The one that watches my face as Mal wiggles away and runs off, and silently puts his toys down to come place his head on my shoulder; the boy I once caught tiptoeing carefully past me as I stood in the bathroom downing a handful of "emergency chocolate". He's trying to figure out how important this is to me and I try to silently express that it's all up to him. That its nothing to me.
"I will bring Lightning McQueen." he decides and goes back to his breakfast.
I knew it was a bad idea- bringing a toy. Not only a toy but his favorite toy. We talk during the drive about how he can leave it there to wait for him, about how if he brings it inside he will have to share it. I'm starting to feel stressed, and wonder if I'm expecting too much from him... It seems like I'm always expecting too much from him, or not enough. Never the perfect amount.
Why can't I ever find balance?
We get there and he carries Lightning under one arm. He is silent, ill-at-ease with children he doesn't know very well and an environment he has never seen. I wish it wasn't like this. I wish he would run and play, exuberant as he is at home. Is it the right thing to do? Forcing him into these social situations? Am I stretching him or am I hurting him?
Of course there is a fight over the race car. Of course there is. It's easily settled; Zeke is reminded that he agreed to share and that we will be taking the toy back home when we leave, he finds the giant stuffed Diego doll to play with. But it still throws me into more doubt. I expected too much, that he would be able to remember to share. I should have just insisted we leave it in the car.
Driving home I wonder if it's always going to be like this- parenting. Is there always so much doubt? It is always such an act of balance? I watch Zeke in my rearview and I try to read his mind. Did he enjoy himself at all? He seemed to open up a bit at the end but I know him, I know his constant request to "stay home."
The mind reading is no use. His green eyes are unreadable. This child is a mystery to me, layer upon layer, more complex then I could have ever imagined. Brave and shy and loving and independent and quiet and funny.
That's the part I have to remember. Because this IS a balancing act, and more then once my ankle will twist and we will fall off this beam...but we just need to get back up. We will try again. Maybe slower, maybe not so many flips and flashes. But I'm confident that if I just keep trying, well, we can survive the falls.