The last couple of weeks have been rough. With camp long since over and another three weeks before the preschool year begins, there’s been no consistent social diversion for my son. The adults of the household are grouchy, mostly because we have some work, but not enough, and projects that we thought were sure to pan out for us are currently stuck in the mud. I’ve been mired in that overwhelming, ultimate incompetent parent feeling. I’m so worried over providing both emotionally and materially that neither effort seems to be going all that well.
At this time last year, it became clear that Declan is as deeply social as he is intensely curious – or, at least that when he gets the opportunity to be social, it seems to offset some of his intensity. By the time we got him into his first classroom, I was desperate for him to have that new place to explore, new people to ask questions of, new things to become curious about. I spent entire days answering esoteric questions about space and anatomy. And I had to look up most of those answers because I don’t know what’s inside of a brain cell or what a neutron star is off the top of my head. I am one of two primary decoders for his universe, and while that’s mostly a thing of beauty and honor, it can also be exhausting, especially since I can’t afford not to work for a living as well as my work as a mom. When I was distracted or unable to answer those questions, it often made him mad. The opening of his social world made his demands on me less intense.
Last Saturday, we took him to COSI, where they had a special space day in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy. We lucked out and got a personal tour of an exhibit of deep space images taken by various telescopes from an OSU astronomy professor. Declan didn’t hold back a thought about any image, 99 percent of which he could identify on sight, prefacing nearly every sentence with “scientists think” or “scientists believe…” His dad and I reminded him that our tour guide was, in fact, a scientist a couple of times, to which the patient and amiable scholar said “it’s okay, your son is really quite a scientist himself.” One of the young women who ran the day’s demonstrations talked to him about eclipses and the life cycle of a star at length, asked to shake his hand and told him that she hoped he gets to do whatever he wants to in life and science.
On the same morning, he spent several minutes afraid of the live, fuzzy costumed character from Zula Patrol that he had especially hoped to see. He orbited him at a distance, worked up his courage, then suddenly ran to hug him and have his picture taken. He played happily in a litter box full of flour and cocoa, throwing rocks to get the idea of a meteor strike. (We now have a bin full of flour, cocoa and fling-worthy marbles at home.) Because above all else, he is four.
He hit me the other day because he was angry that I wouldn’t let him have a third popsicle. Then we talked about things, made up and he told me about feelings he’s had about classmates and new situations that he’s never shared before. He loves to watch Calliou. He’s obsessed over which stars are big enough to become black holes and whether they would impact our solar system. He does pratfalls around the house and asks me to film them so we can submit them to America’s Funniest Videos.
This morning he snuggled me and bounced around the bed while his dad talked about letting me sleep a little while longer. Then Declan pressed the top of his forehead to mine, stroked my hair and face and sang all of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in his sweetest and quietest voice before letting me be for a while.