He's three tomorrow, my toddler-boy, the one with the impossibly long eyelashes and the built-like-a-tank body. He's a sweetheart, that darling child of mine. He loves to snuggle. He loves babies. He loves to fall asleep with his head on my lap.
He also loves to rip the heads off his Lego people.
Make of that what you will.
But his clumsy toddler fingers make it challenging for him to accomplish his violence on his own, so he does what most three year olds do when faced with such a difficulty: he asks his Mommy for help.
"Can you take his head off for me, Mommy?"
"I don't know...what if he doesn't want his head ripped off?"
"Okay, here goes. Ahhhhhhh! Hmm. Sounds like he didn't like that very much."
He grins, walks off, silly Mommy.
Always the same thing, until recently. He brought over his Lego person and asked me to rip his head off. I silently obliged. After I handed him back his now-decapitated tiny man, he stood still for a few seconds. Then he looked up at me.
"Why didn't you say 'ahhhhhh' this time?"
"I'm sorry! Ahhhhhhhh! Better?"
He grinned his approval and returned to his playing.
The next time he asked me to help him remove a head, I remembered our last encounter. I gave the obligatory scream as I handed him the body parts.
"You said 'ahhhhhh'!" he exclaimed, pleased that I didn't have to be reminded again.
It's always the little things, isn't it? The things we think are just silly, unimportant, until a child looks up at us with those big eyes and asks why we didn't do it this time. It's important to them. Those brief moments of engagement, those miniature rituals, those unexpected moments of meaning that tell them hey, I see you, I'm here with you, I care about you, they all matter.
It matters to my little boy that I pretend his minifigs are screaming as I rip their heads off. It lets him know that I'm there, really there, fully engaged in the present moment and the task (as it were) at hand.
I'm grateful for his reminder.
So I'll keep on screaming. I'll keep on being silly until he tells me I'm so uncool, Mom. And then we'll find new ways of connection, and maybe he'll concede that I'm not entirely uncool after all. Maybe.
(Only by then he won't actually need me to rip off his minifigs' heads for him, but that's beside the point. Somehow. I don't know what I'm talking about. I misplaced my brain, remember?)
Today I'll be watching for those little moments of connection, because it turns out they're some of the most important moments of all.