It's October and the first graders have been swapping scary stories. When he comes home, my Oscar spins over them. Rather than clinging to my leg and mumbling and refusing to go to the bathroom alone and irritating your low-patience mother, we are working on saying what we are feeling so others can help us.
I was thinking on this last week as we traveled with new friends. They are just awfully kind and cheerful and interesting and smart and easy, and well--normal. Their kids sit and play and draw and eat breakfast and--wait for it---wash their own dishes. Our family tends to travel solo as we are finicky and strange and possessive about the good coffee, so this was an enormous risk for us, and as the week went on---rather easily---I began to do my own version of mumbling and leg-clinging and refusing to enter rooms alone. Turning something just fine into something anxiety-ridden is one of my special gifts:
At night I would consider my wonderings and tell Patrick, "I don't think we are asking them enough questions. They must think us so selfish." Or "I'm pretty sure they saw me put Oscar's shoes on for him. They must think we are horrible parents." Or "We didn't leave the house all day. They think we are insane." Sweet Patrick would do what he does best at times like that, which is to say as few words as possible so that I don't latch onto one of them and thus spin questions into oblivion or at the very least, a weary 2:00am conversation.
Today as I listened to Mary Karr and Krista Tippett banter about faith and poetry and fear, I wondered if maybe if it was because I was saying possibilities but not true terrors. The truth of it is, those people were gosh darn wonderful. It was easy. I spent most of that week in happy city. The truth of it also is that it's hard and scary to make new friends. It's hard and scary to let people see the real you. It's hard and scary to have an emotional IQ in the double digits. It's hard and scary to share your pot of dark French roast and to not blurt out inappropriate comments all day. It's hard and scary to be an adult.
Writers I love, like Mary Karr and Anne LaMott, both echo that we need to holler out, "I need help!" And that's what I've been telling Oscar Gus. When your playground buddies tell you creepy things, you can come home, and you can say, "I need help!" Your mom prays with you and talks to you and looks in spooky mirrors with you and reads funny books and hangs twinkle lights in dark corners.
I need help being an adult. So today I sent off a few emails to some good girlfriends. I sketched for no reason at all. I texted the nice travel buddies, and they must not be too scarred, as they texted back. I read a little Danny Gregory. I took a long walk. I let myself feel hopeful. Mary Karr says, "Daring to hope every day is much more radical than to live in the despair I was born to." So, I shall appreciate my weird and others' weird and live radically and hopefully and trust that if my emotional stuntedness scares off folks, then it's probably best they find other friends who have children that will help with the dishes. We are all just doing the best we can with what we have, and if that means Oscar is in college before he learns to tie his own shoes, so be it. At least he'll be able to make really good coffee.