Day Four of Captivity

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A moment of happiness before the twenty-minute-long temper tantrum walk back to the car.

Yesterday I had the brilliant idea to take advantage of the free admission to our local metroparks. The play areas are closed, but I thought my son and I could hike the trails and go exploring. It’s a large park so I knew we could maintain “social distancing” and get some fresh air. This is the same park that my husband and I went to three years ago right after his ALS diagnosis. It was a rare February day in Michigan where it was over 60 degrees and sunny. We walked the trails, encountered two giant cranes, and sat in the sun and ate sandwiches together. It was the last time I remember being truly happy with him without the shadow of ALS over us.

So admittedly, my vision of this expedition with my son may have been romanticized a bit. I imagined us walking serenely together, hand-in-hand, and enjoying the green flowers just poking through the black earth as the singing birds encircled our heads. It all started out great for the first 30 feet and then he announced he was hungry. I attempted to distract him, but finally relinquished and gave him one of the bag of chips in my backpack I had stashed for just a situation as this. Walking and eating proved to be difficult so we stopped at the next bench another 30 feet later. Chips and granola bar eaten, water drunk, I thought we were on our way to the edge of the lake that was just ahead. I could see pairs of swans gently floating by the reeds and wanted to get a closer look. My son had other ideas. He insisted that he was done and was heading back to the car. He stood defiantly with his arms crossed while I tried to coax him to follow me the 50 feet toward the edge of the lake.

Now one thing you need to understand about my five-year-old son is that he is four feet, four inches tall and over 100 lbs. so there is no way I am going to physically “make him” do anything. That ship sailed two years ago. I have enviously watched other mothers pick up and carry away their sons who were stubbornly refusing to comply. A single tear trailing down my cheek as they swing them on their hip and leave the public place. Last year I tried to lift him into the shopping cart and ended up in the ER with a dislocated pelvis.  Because of his size I am forced to “convince” my son to comply with my instructions. I usually start with rewards (bribery) and then resort to consequences (threats).

The same was true today. I tried to entice him with the swans and pointed out the white shapes on the water. He told me he already could see them and was going back. I then told him I would take away his online game time and he started walking away from me, angry this time. My next tactic was to walk away from him, which usually gets him to follow me. He eventually did and started running toward me crying. We hugged and I thought we had it settled, but five minutes in he changed his mind again and wanted to go back. At this point I gave up. I decided the walk was over and it was better to just go home so I started walking back and told him he had lost his game time. This produced a torrent or tears. He began slowly following me and screaming, “This is all your fault. You said we were walking a short walk and this is a long walk. Now it’s going to rain and it’s all your fault. ” We were quite the slow parade as I walked with the dog being followed by a shuffling, shouting five-year-old (who looks like an eight-year-old) along the path while trying to practice social distancing. Yes, Mother-of-the- Year, right here!

After a few breaks along the way, some deep breathing on both of our parts, we finally made it back into the car, exhausted. I doubt we had even walked a mile, but it felt as if I’d run a marathon. The poor dog was probably even more relieved than we were to be heading home as he didn’t know what to make of it all.

On thing that occurred to me today, was had I posted the above picture on Facebook and shared “Us at the park today” I would have gotten tons of likes, but that was a small moment of what was actually a really difficult time. Loving like your life depends on it is not just sharing the shiny, happy things, but also the hard, messy things. I hope this post makes you laugh and allows you to be okay with your messy moments. “Love covers all wrongs” so keep spreading love.

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