December 30th, 2012
We hemmed and hawed into the night, at least into what our kids consider the night, and finally decided. This time it was a real decision. One we called final only after physically separating. All “decisions” before that had made in face-to-face conversation. We’d been together way too much for way too long for that to work.
I packed up my computer, knocking someone’s phone off the charging hub around which I’d been huddled. “Sorry.” I could barely choke it out. Though I really was sorry (and am generally pretty concientous), the day had drained me completely of good will. I marched from the depressing food court to the terminal where all the hungry boys were waiting patiently, steeling myself the whole 150 feet.
I locked in on the hungry boy, fixed on his gorgeous pale blue gaze. I had no idea what to expect. That never happens—I always think I know what’s coming, even when I don’t.
“We’re giving up. It’s time to go home.”
He stared back for what felt like an eternity. I wondered if I looked foreign to my own son. Was this new, uncertain look on my face unnerving? Then he broke into tears. Big, sudden tears.
“But, but… but I was so excited.”
I thought that the word “so” might break under the weight of all that he’d put on it. The anticipation and excitement. Maybe it was the pieces—the S and the O—crashing down on me that broke my heart.
He bawled. I teared, but tried to look strong and pretend that I was certain we’d made the right decision to cancel our vacation as planned.
Canceling a vacation shouldn’t be so dramatic, but it was. Not because we’re spoiled (though we are), but because it was the first time that the hungry boy could—and will—remember being deeply disappointed. I watched it happen. Saw it in slow motion. My little boy feeling deeply the first major blow to his belief that the universe works for him.
A good lesson. Important even. But it’s hard to watch your child move through growing pains in real time.
We packed up our makeshift airport campsite and figured out how to claim our luggage which, it turns out, made it to Colorado without us before making the lonely trip back to Brooklyn. The hungry boy watched in disbelief. And cried.
The airport was nearly empty, filled with sleepers and stragglers who circled like partygoers who stay too long because they have nowhere better to go. Weary themselves, they unabashedly stared at our unravelling little boy. I could see on their faces that they didn’t understand that his weren’t bratty tears. They didn’t know that we were dealing with a first certain kind of heartbreak. I wanted to yell at them, “Well we DO have somewhere better to go!” though I wasn’t convinced it was so.
I held on tight to the hungry boy’s hand. He’s such a very serious boy, and a real talker.
“I want to go skiing.”
“I was so excited.”
“Will we ever get to go?”
“Can we get on another plane?”
“If we just wait, we can make it.”
I had no answers. I just squeezed his hand. So very tired, I began questioning whether he and I had a clear, strong non-verbal language all our own. Could he tell from my grip that everything would be okay? I stopped and kneeled in front of him. I asked for both hands and then squeezed them. His face was puffy and red, splattered with tears and snot. I was thrown off by how beautiful he looked. It took me a minute to get the words out.
“I know you’re disappointed. I am, too. Let’s hug.”
The talking stopped. For the rest of the night.
We left all of our tears at the airport and are making the best of things. We’re lucky and thankful that we can. But there’s a tiny part of me that’s still sad. Not because we didn’t get to take our fabulous vacation, but because I watched my little boy grow up just a little bit. And sometimes growing up hurts, even when things aren’t so serious.
Shit happens, and the shit is only going to get more deep as he gets older. At least I know that I can be there for him, squeezing his hands, reassuring him that we can make everything okay. Somehow. I think.
At least we’ll always try.
Happy new year from Brooklyn, where the hungry boy and I are unexpectedly cooking up a storm in the comfort of our own cozy kitchen. I hope you’re starting the new year exactly as you’re meant to. I know that I am.
Tired of sugary holiday food, the hungry boy and I decided to whip up these no-cook, sweet-but-healthy Apple Coconut Oat Bars very barely adapted from Weelcious: 140 Fast, Fresh and Easy Recipes by Catherine McCord of the eponymous Weelicous site. And, by the way, I swear that it isn’t just me: the hungry boy said that he was tired of so many “crazy sweets,” too. At least I know I’m doing that right. (For good measure, you should know that the little one told me today that his favorite food is sugar, so there’s that.)
Apple Coconut Oat Bars
barely adapted from Weelcious: 140 Fast, Fresh and Easy Recipes
(can be shared with kids 12+ mos)
Makes about 30 small squares
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups dried apple rings
1 cup pitterd dates (soaked in warm water for a few minutes if they are very dry)
1/2 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Place oats in a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds, or until well ground. Set aside 1/4 cup and leave remaining in the food processor.
2. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and pulse to combine, for about 2 minutes, until a ball forms.
3. Line a loaf pan (about 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches) with plastic wrap. Press mixture down to mold it into the shape of the pan. Remove the block from the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into 1″ squares.
4. Roll squares in reserved ground oats until evenly coated. These should keep for 1 week on the counter, covered, or 2 weeks in the fridge.
*Note: Though there is nothing in this treat that is unsafe for kids younger, I recommend them for kids 12+ mos since they are sticky and require some good chewing. A younger little one safely managing finger food will likely be able to gnaw on these, but keep in mind that dried fruit is quite high in sugar. A little of this will go a long way with younger eaters.