It's 10 am and I am still in my pajamas waiting to be able to get in the shower. You see, a good friend of mine is taking three of my children to a zoo for the day and we are waiting for them to be picked up. That's fun, you think to yourself, and if you are a normal, healthy individual, that's all it is... just fun. But if you happen to have had a lot of bad things happen to you in your early years, then fun is not so simple. Fun and anxiety are processed and interpreted all the same way. In fact, it's pretty hard to tell the difference between the two. Fun, beforehand, really isn't so much fun.
Which is why I'm still waiting to get dressed. Over the course of the morning, waiting for the three to get picked up, I have been on high alert. First there was the drama about what lunch to bring.
"What should I bring for lunch?"
"I don't know what I should bring for lunch."
"Could I pack just a snack."
"I don't think I need to bring a lunch."
"Can I melt chocolate to put on my sandwich?"
"I don't want a sandwich."
"Do I have to bring a lunch?"
He finally decided on chicken noodle soup in a thermos. We then had the same type of conversation about whether to bring a water bottle, a bowl for the soup, and what to put the lunch things in.
Having finally settled the question of lunch, we moved onto clothing. It is currently 38 degrees in Chicagoland and my dear boy was wearing a thin long-sleeved shirt and nylon running shorts. This inability to judge temperature is a constant so not unique to the morning, and it is also a fight that I haven't bothered to wage in a long time. If he gets cold, he gets cold. I did ask him if he didn't want warmer clothes on since he would be outside most of the day. No, he didn't want that... until he did. Finally under his own volition he changed into jeans and I insisted he at least carry an extra sweatshirt with him.
Now, with both clothes and lunch sorted out, it was time to move onto really important considerations such as what supplies to bring. When I asked him what he was going to carry his lunch in, he said that he would put it in the bag he always brings everywhere. Sure enough, there by the door was sitting the messenger bag that he likes, looking just a tad full. I asked him what he had already packed and he started sorting through it. For a day trip to the zoo he had packed: 1 umbrella (I made him leave that behind since it was sunny), 2 pairs of swim goggles (these I also insisted he leave behind), 1 small baggie full of AA batteries, 1 small flashlight (which explains the AA batteries), 1 empty plastic bag... just in case, 1 band-aid, 1 travel bottle of shampoo, 1 toothbrush, 1 tube of toothpaste, 1 container of dental floss, and I think there were a couple of other toiletry-type items in there as well. Because you never know when you're going to need something.
At the face of it, the list is a bit laughable, but this also breaks my heart. You see, this is what he carries with him most of the time when going out on trips longer than errands around town. It screams to me how insecure and frightened he still is. Deep down he doesn't feel he can trust anyone but himself; he has to be prepared. Seeing the tangible evidence of how deep his hurt is makes it a little easier to be empathetic to the over-the-top-wildness that comes with the prospect of both leaving me and going on a day-long excursion. I know my role in these moments is to act as the anchor to the wildly careening ship on a stormy sea.
It's just a real good thing that my anchor is stronger than anything.