"Our souls sit close and silently within,
And their own webs from their own entrails spin,
And when eyes meet somewhere far off, our sense is such,
That spider-like we feel the tenderest touch."
- John Dryden
My son tells me dirty jokes. Not just kid kind of dirty jokes, but
adult jokes. He is sixteen and growing into manhood in a body that he
has lost control of. "He has issues," I tell people when they ask why he
rarely leaves the house.
"Have you tried this therapy or that therapist? Did you read so-and-so's
book about boys? Vitamins and herbs are good for this kind of thing. I
used Prozac when I felt..." people say to me, their discomfort and need
to change him written on their faces.
Will vitamins and herbs erase the violence and rages of his father and
his brothers, the negative feelings that rolled downhill in the house he
grew up in, the divorce, the decision of his oldest sister to move away
when his brother went to prison? I want to say. Will prozac silence the
police officer who shared his brother's criminal record with a classmate
who came to school talking about it, change the abilities of the
teachers who, while horrified, couldn't understand his reluctance to sit
day after day in a classroom full of kids who might be openly discussing
his family? Will so-and-so's book undo the arrest of another brother?
Will therapy cure his sudden illness, misdiagnosed with questions like
"Did your mother hit you? One of your brothers?" the emergency surgery
in the neurologist's office, his father standing next to him holding his
hand, dead in a violent car wreck four days later? Will it tame the
looks from new kids at a new school two weeks later, his head still
swathed in bandages?
Looking at the open mouth of the person trying to get me to try these
things, I consider explaining the years of family therapy, the
medications tried and discarded, the beginning of his house-boundedness.
But then I realize that if I could tell her what beautiful blue-green
eyes he has, or the way his hair flips to the side when it gets a little
long, how much he is able to love, how surprising his smile is, and how
he will hug me for no reason, or how the path to our own healing lies
within us, maybe just maybe she might understand why he isn't afraid to
tell me a truly dirty joke. Maybe she could grasp why I am not afraid to
allow him his space, to support him in his growth, and to love him
completely and without reservation.
Then in a moment of revelation, an epiphany, I see that her goal is not
to understand. It is to help me see how inadequate I am as a parent, to
make her feel better about how uncomfortable she is with her own
choices. What she needs from me is an agreement that I will try
something she suggests or admit that I haven't done it all, to meet her
in her own fantasy and denial and return repentant to the societal
construct of "good parent." I am supposed to stop rocking her boat, to
go back to the matrix and force my child and myself into the box that
was designed for "single mom and dependent son."
© Ann Perkins
Ann Perkins is a recent college graduate at fifty with a degree in
Socially Responsible Journalism. She is a single mother who lives in the
mountains outside Durango, Co. with her lover, Patrick, two of her seven
children, four dogs, and five cats.
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