When we started this walk two years ago, we would drop Ayden off at kindergarten, walk Matthew to preschool, and then walk home. Matthew would drag at my arm, digging his thumbnail into my palm and doing this hilarious and annoying whine-cry. "My feet hurt from all this walking!" Only it was more like, "Y hee urt dih wa-ee" because his speech was so dysfunctional. It was like dragging an unwilling dog on a leash. I kept thinking, walking is good for you, you'll get used to it, you need the exercise, the time in nature is essential for the growing imagination and the nurturing of your soul, keep going, keep going. And now, he's a spot on my horizon with little legs and an enormous backpack, independent and small and capable. Those walks were hard. And so worth it.
Lately, he has developed a decided abhorrence to affection. Oh, I remember the days when he used to touch me CONSTANTLY. He was crawling into my lap, onto my shoulders, over my head, between my knees, always, always, always. It was a revelation to me to recognize that my introspective need for occasional privacy in my personal space was something it was okay to take. I felt so guilty that I needed to sometimes, just for a bit, not be touched.
Partly this is because Matthew is SO tactile. Especially before his communication pathologies were cured, he had to touch everything. It was a form of exploration, communication, and being in the world. He still has the interparental nickname of "Touchypants," not because his feelings get hurt easily (they don't), but because he touches with the same impulse that the rest of us look. Imagine someone calls you. What's the first thing you do? Turn your head and look. Matthew reaches his hand out and touches. It's who he is.
I remember standing in church with tights and a skirt on and suddenly feeling a small hand slide up my leg and touch my butt...he had a fascination for the feel of tights! That was hilarious.
Anyways, he has now reached a level of maturity and classic boy-ness where affectionate touching is gross. I tease him by chasing him with kisses. Hugging him is like hugging a dead tree. The look on his face is like, "Wow this is about as gross as a pit of viper snakes. I better play dead." Actually, he reminds me of my sister with the hugging thing. She always hugs the air around you and pats your back gingerly with her fingertips. Wow! Nice hug! I prefer a rib cruncher, myself.
But there is one last vestige of affection that he isn't aware he does, and I'm hanging onto it and savoring every last second. When I read to him, he curls his body into my side and rests his head on my arm. It's so, so wonderful. His cheek is so soft. His body so small. He's so warm. And he loves me. He belongs to me. It's awesome.
[I almost scratched Ayden's eyes out at the dinner table for suggesting that adopted sons are not as real as biological sons--in the context of Indiana Jones, who has an adopted son. An argument ensued. I WON.]
When a connection with a child is hard fought and won, it is all that much more rewarding in its sweet peacefulness. It's hard to really explain how far this is from five years ago. It boggles my mind. It makes me believe in God. And the possibility of peace on this planet. And the availability of a solution for poverty. If I can be fixed, repaired, healed, or led to this place, anything is possible.