In so many ways, looking into the face of Sean is like looking into a tiny mirror. I look at him and see me 44 years ago. I see in him the frustration that comes easily with mechanical things, square pegs that don’t fit into round holes, top-heavy things that tip over, gutter covers and easy open zip lock bags that don’t work as you imagine they will and that sort of thing. In this regard, I don’t want him to be like me because that means he might be in for a life of hurling objects across a room and that’s not good. My prayer is that he will learn to become patient and analytical, like his father.
Yet in other ways he is not like me at all. For example, this week I took him to story time at the local library for the first time. There was a grandmotherly lady who obviously had a lot of experience teaching small children. She read several books to the children and lead them through some songs with hand gestures and dance steps. She held their attention and they were all enamored of her. All the kids sat at her feet on a special rug with safari animals on it. They climbed all over one another to sit near her and get her attention and please her. All the kids, that is, except for Sean who sat on my lap like a potted plant.
When I was Sean’s age I would have had my mom drop me at the curb. I would have been in the middle of the crowd of kids, entertaining everyone whether they wanted it or not. I would have been organizing the post story-time cocktail party. I would have been making the teacher wish either she or I was on another planet. I was social. I was vibrant. I was noisy and obnoxious and I simply could not contain my exuberant self.
After story time, I asked Sean if he enjoyed it and would he would like to go again next week. “Yes,” he said, “But I just don’t want to sit on the rug.”
“Sure, okay,” I agreed. “Why not?”
“It makes me feel anxious,” he said soberly.
I sighed. Only middle-aged people in therapy should say that. And then I sighed again thinking that inside my three-year-old lives a middle-aged person in therapy — a middle-aged person in therapy who is blaming his mother for having tortured him with story time at the library.