It’s animal print day, but too warm to wear the entire Paw Patrol Marshall pajama ensemble, so we go with the pj pants only. Which means everyone keeps complimenting him on his cow pants—which is confusing to him because he’s not a cow! But also Marshall isn’t his favorite pup—Chase is. And blue is his favorite color. And by the way, Mommy, now it’s hot so let’s take off both pants and shoes.
(I worry, for a moment, he will run off in his dinosaur underpants, because dinosaur underpants.)
With new shorts but no shoes (“I put them in the bin, Mommy!”) he throws his arms around me and exclaims “I’m shy!” like it’s the most obvious thing in the world and as though there were any truth to it at all.
In this moment I look down and notice my shirt is on inside out. It’s a shirt I pulled from the back of the closet and it is a maternity shirt in extra large. It doesn’t really fit me now but it’s comfy and this was supposed to be quick. Instead he wails, “Don’t leave me, Mommy!” and tugs on my pants so hard they almost fall down, almost revealing my underpants, which have polka dots on them instead of dinosaurs.
My face is awash in red hot shame—shame that my pants almost fell down, that my tent of a shirt is on inside-out, that my child is throwing a fit.
But still, I smile and I leave and lo and behold, once I am out the gate, he is fine.
Later, when I pick him up, his teacher grins, seeming to burst with joy at the sight of me. He’s had a great week—every day this week has been great, which must be some kind of record. She puts her hand on my arm and tells me she is so proud—oh so proud—of all the progress he’s made. “Even the other teachers see it!” she announces, and she’s right, that’s no small thing.
“The light at the end of the tunnel,” I breathe, and she laughs and says “It’s true!” She tells me he is a good boy, and he is learning.
I take him for smoothies. We both choose mango. When I was pregnant with him I craved mango every day, and when I’d eat it he’d kick and dance and I’d feel like we were sharing some kind of secret.
This is another kind of secret: that we are both growing and changing, that even though I am the adult I am learning maybe just as much as he is each day.
I’m learning how wrong I’ve been about so many things, how often I get things wrong, not because I am wrong, but because I’m human. I’m learning about shame, and how it’s a liar, and how listening to it is a waste of time.
We drink our smoothies and he asks me if I want to be a teacher when I grow up. I tell him, maybe! But I’m already a grown up. But maybe.
“Do you think I’d make a good teacher?” I ask him.
“Yes! You’d be good,” he says, and he smiles a secret smile. “Because you are my good Mommy.”
He’s good. I’m good. We’re good. I’ll be holding onto these words for a lifetime.