Carl and I needed a day off. We needed a break from being at home, being around the Marcus-drama, and being swamped with responsibilities. Frankly, I also needed a parenting “win.” Out of all the children, Carl is the one I feel like I can really get through to. Connecting with me is somehow easier for him and, consequently, very rewarding for me.
He’s been having a hard time at home. Bursts of anger and tantrums we haven’t seen for a long time have come out. School is going well for Carl right now, and that’s a huge plus. However, he is showing fear about the bathroom and about bedtime again. Luke and I did the normal rounds with therapy and the psychiatrist.
Still, I felt like he could use a little one-on-one time to connect. Sunday was a perfect day, with low humidity (less back pain) and sunshine aplenty. So I surprised him with a trip to the zoo, just the two of us. Luke was working and Marcus was locked in his room, not speaking to anyone. It was time for some fun.
Carl absolutely loves animals so the trip was a hit. We saw zebras and elephants and giraffes. We learned about the zoo’s efforts to rescue animals that had been domesticated for unsavory purposes. Carl didn’t even mind my plentiful use of the benches. He just took off to see an exhibit, then reported back to me.
At 12, I feel his childhood slipping away. I try to grasp onto it while I still can. He’s almost my height now and he has a tiny mustache (which he completely denies!) On days like this I can still get him to begrudgingly let me kiss his cheeks or give him “squishes.”
It goes like this:
Me: Just let me kiss those adorable cheeks. Please please please please please!
Carl: (eye-roll) I don’t want to!
Me: But I’ll buy you that sweatshirt you want at the gift shop. Just two more kisses!!!
Bystanders: (lots of horrified stares)
By now I’m used to people staring at Carl and me when we are out. We certainly don’t look related. Out of our entire family I have the lightest skin and he has the darkest. It can lead to awkward exchanges explaining adoption. Sometimes people ask if I’m his tutor or his babysitter.
I sort of realized belatedly (read: when Carl told me) that the zoo patrons were under this very same impression. Only this time it seemed wildly inappropriate. They must have been thinking something along the lines of:
“What a pervy babysitter. Where are that boys parents?”
“Does he know the creepy lady that’s offering to buy him things if he lets her kiss his cheek?”
“Did that crazy white lady kidnap that poor Hispanic boy?!?!!”
Luckily we left before the police or park security showed up. Whew! I still got my parenting win.
I swear I didn’t kidnap him! No really, he’s my son!!
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.