"Oliver! Look over here. O-li-ver. ... Oliver!"
"Oliver, leave the hat on and look over here for one second so I can take your picture and I'll let you eat every single piece of candy in that bucket!"
I didn't worry too much about making good on that last promise because the chances of Oliver actually looking at me when I call his name are slim to none. I did manage to get a couple of photos of him in his make-shift costume (whirly hat and suspenders) but only because I was very persistant.
As we walked from house to house last night with Oliver, who had been thoroughly coached on the nuances of trick-or-treating, I reflected a little bit on motherhood. Oliver, you see, wasn't too interested in this particular ritual of childhood and I had to really talk myself out of being disappointed. Before we even approached the first house he started a chorus of "no, no, no, no," tried to break free and return home. I persisted though thinking that once he got the concept he would become a little less resistant and maybe even enjoy himself. I partially got my wish -- he did become a little less resistant but I'm not sure he ever really enjoyed himself.
So much of my concept of motherhood involves wanting to give and to teach my children the things that I think are meaningful and important; sharing with them a way of looking at and thinking about the world. Helping your child discover the world is one of the rewards of motherhood, after all. With Oliver the process of discovery is very subtle and comes with the extra challenge of persistance. A few weeks ago I sat on the front porch in the early October sunshine while Oliver stomped back and forth making loud noises and generally entertaining himself. A hummingbird happened by the remains of the garden close to the porch and I quickly tried to get his attention so that I could point out the bird. This became an exercise in frustration because it is nearly impossible to get Oliver's attention by shouting or calling and because he is not able to follow the path between fingertip and object. By the time I physically positioned Oliver in a location by the rail where he might be likely to spot the fast moving bird on his own, it had gone. I released Oliver back to his stomping and tried to quell my own sense of disappointment at not being able to share the excitemnt with my son. A few minutes later a grasshopper landed on the step next to me and I didn't bother going through the whole routine again. And I felt guilty for not trying.
When we arrived home last night after our short excursion into the night I tried mightily to get a picture of the boy with his costume and then to interest him in a piece of chocolate. As he pulled away, not interested in either the picture or the chocolate, I reminded myself that my growing sense of sadness at the way the evening had turned out was only due to my own notions about what motherhood and childhood should be -- the mistaken belief that the context of being a mother and of being a child is what matters.
The evening ended on a high note when Oliver came to me and said: "I want to go to sleep." This is the second night out of four when he has told us that he was tired and wanted to go to bed. Coming from a kid who normally has to be wrestled into bed this is progress indeed. So I took him to his bed, pulled the covers all the way up to his ears, kissed him good-night.
Then I headed downstairs to count my chocolate!