He hides himself in the folds of my yoga pants and whimpers.
There are people, Mama. People.
He doesn't say it, but I know what he is thinking. He is afraid of humans, my little Thor. I give him a hammer and a lightning bolt, but he still cowers. At the playground, he holds my hand and watches, and I push him gently toward a manageable slide. "Go play, my angel. Go play." And he shakes his head and reaches up.
No, Mama. No. No.
I take him in my arms, and stand on the sidelines watching the other children play. Watching Beezus slide down the fireman's pole, and talk to other children, and try the monkey bars. He still struggles with the talk. I hear him try sentences on for size, rolling around in his mouth. Aspirating after each word. I want to encourage him, but I don't understand what he is saying. He repeats the phrase again. Then out of the blue, he will perfectly pronounce 'garbage truck.' Most often, he won't speak at all. People ask him, "What's your name?" Or "Why aren't you talking?" Or "Don't tell me you're shy."
I smile and answer for him. I tell people that he is in speech therapy, so they know we are working on this, and I spell the word S-H-Y. They seem to want answers for the reason that he is the size of a four year old, but doesn't speak yet. They look at Beezus and say that his sister is probably speaking for him, and I nod and laugh, and all the while, I think that Thor knows exactly what we are saying and is living his fate.
The speech therapist wonders if he is lacking confidence, since he seems to whisper the right answer and then not repeat it aloud. She mentions selective mutism. She says he is probably the brightest child she works with. He follows complicated, even unexpected directions. He's smart and patient and lovely, she says. Almost much too patient and smart for a child his age. He's like the opposite of hyperactive.
Hypoactive? I think.
I wonder if shy is a bad trait or a good one. I felt emboldened recently at the spate of articles and books talking about shyness being a good trait. We are a family of shy. And shy is something everyone thinks you need to get over to be successful. It seems good to me to talk when you feel moved to talk, instead of filling empty space with noise. Thor sits in meditation. He giggles incessantly, and plays with his sister like he is four. Later, I look up selective mutism. Social Anxiety Disorder pops up. Shyness. Psychiatrist. Special classes. Therapy.
The nights have grown more pleasant. Almost cool, and I open the door to my studio. The wind chimes ring. The mosquitoes smell the warmth and buzz around me as I read about all the things I should be doing with Thor. He is two and I am reading about SSRIs. It feels so wrong. I caused this with my anxiety during his pregnancy, the thought immediately pops into my head. I've been waiting to find out how I messed up Thor, and here it is. I am convinced of it. It covers me like a wet, scratchy blanket. I can't escape it. It is heavy and uncomfortable and larger than our house. I will never escape accusation and blame. I am the causer of psychiatric disorders! He is too attached! BAD MOTHER! BAD! And as I start that line of thinking, I stop. I take in a long, cleansing breath, and let that abuse float out my studio door with the mosquitoes. It doesn't help me parent him better to believe it is my fault.
My baby Thor is sweet and lovely. He needs to sleep with his feet over someone, like he is the King of Siam. He wants to be fanned and fed grapes and he likes to dance to music about the moon and goddesses. He likes to grab my face in both his hands, and stare into my eyes and then kiss me on the mouth. He is quiet and shy and afraid sometimes and I realize I have been approaching him all wrong. There is nothing wrong with him. Instead of losing patience, I need to reassure him that shyness can be a successful way of being. I need to stop making excuses or explaining all this. I want him comfortable so others can see the loving, confident, creative, amazing child I am privileged to mother everyday. What I created is a child who trusts me, who practices discernment in social situations, and fears strangers asking what is wrong with him. I understand where he is coming from.
Let people wonder, ask, gawk. Let them call me controlling, or too attached. Let them think I am a bad mother. I can handle that. What Thor needs is to know nothing is expected of him but his security. All he needs to do is feel safe, and then nature will do the rest. So my job now is not to get him to talk, but to get him to relax.
Find it in my skirts, my son. Find it on my lap. Then grow strong. Grab your hammer. Change the world.