Mr. Right-Click finally convinced Mini to wear the pair of Superman pajamas we bought for him a year ago by informing Mini that Superman is the greatest of all superheroes. Mini has always been a child that celebrates achievement, and so this fact about the supremacy of Superman piqued his interest enough for him to put the pajamas on, and run into our bedroom shrieking, “I a super hero to the rescue! Super hero to rescue!” Still, when Mr. Right-Click tried to confirm that Mini was a superhero, Mini said, “Yes, I’m a superhero. I’m a baby superhero.”
Mini’s invention of a Baby Superhero is one of those little metaphors you stumble across every once in a while that somehow perfectly captures a moment in time. In this case, it perfectly encapsulates Mini’s stage of development: he wants to grow up, but he doesn’t. He wants to be a big boy, but he doesn’t. He wants Mommy to coddle him, but he doesn’t. It can all be very confusing, and it can (and does) turn on a dime. The fact that Mini is completely fluent now only complicates things, because we no longer have the luxury of kidding ourselves that he doesn’t understand things, or underestimating the depth of the emotions he feels, or ignoring the gentleness of the soul that lurks beneath those big blue eyes.
And so we are back into a stage in which my heart gets ripped out of my chest and smashed into a billion pieces each morning when I take Mini to school. Mini’s teacher says that the reason that school dropoffs have become difficult again for Mini is that he is growing up. She says he is torn between the lure of becoming more independent from me, but at the same time he is terrified by the change that this suggests. She says that two year olds struggle with transitions.
So this is how it goes: each morning we get into the car, and on the way to school I will pull out every last trick in my bag to assuage Mini’s fears and anxieties about the forthcoming separation. I will do the fast-food rule, I will point out the snow on the mountains (yes, this happens sometimes, even here), I will ask him to count trucks or school buses with me. I will tell him what we’re going to do in the afternoon, I will say, “I understand,” when he says he wants to go home. I will even pretend to let Bruin Bear drive the car on occasion to get his mind off things. Usually, by the time we get to school he is nearing something like excited to be there, and this lasts for as long as I stay there, playing with him and his little preschool friends. In recent months the time in between us arriving at school and me leaving has become longer incrementally, something I did not notice until I realized some of the other preschoolers had taken to referring to me as “Mini’s Mom,” as in, “Mini’s Mom, will you move that bike out of the way?” or “Mini’s mom, come play with cars!”
At length, it will be time to go, and Mini, sensing this, will grab onto me and, under the pretense of “walking [me] to the gate,” he’ll take both my hands. Then he’ll say, “I want to climb on you,” and uses my hands as grappling hooks so he can climb up the side of my legs, so now he’s perpendicular to me, and it’s impossible that I move even an inch, much less actually leave the school premises, or else he will crash to the ground. [And it’s moments like those when I really don’t get those people who complain about bloggers talking about their kids, because was there ever an experience more ripe with writing prompts than a small child and his negotiation of the world? Because sometimes it feels like the sky above the preschool is constantly raining metaphors, and all we have to do is gather them up and spit them out on a page.]
Inevitably, a teacher will come over to us to “help [Mini] say goodbye,” much is made of giving lots of kisses, and just one more, and just one big one more, until finally there is that moment in which I have to just rip off the bandaid already, and I say, “Good bye, buddy! See you in a few hours,” and I hear the wails for “Momma! I want my Momma back! I want my momma back!” as I walk out the gate and run to the parking lot, get into my car, and drive away before I can even think about going back.
Transitions are no fucking picnic for 36-year-olds, either.