I need to lament for my 5 year old son who can’t lament. Yes, because he is 5 and doesn’t know what the word means but also because he doesn’t know he needs to. As his mother, I know he needs to lament. Finally, after 6 months of this pandemic, this avoidable to this level of suffering pandemic, I am able to name what is going on with him, and thus, his dad, and even his brother. There is a deep need for lamentation.
There have been signs and the signs have pointed me to this place and to this word. When Abram wanted to go to his favorite places like OBX froyo, McDonald’s ( I know, ugg!), even 7-11, my first thought was he just wants treats to cover his sadness, confusion, and frustration with all the changes in his world right now. This 5 year old, grandson of a dentist, has farrr toooo manyyyy fillings than I care to admit, leading to the obvious excuse- he just wants to feed his feelings with sweets. We all do this, no shame, no judgment, but clearly not the best way to handle our feelings. So since March we have occasionally dabbled into these cravings. But after a few months, and more signs through misbehavior and extra-neediness I have been able to see more than just a very very strong sweet tooth. He would say, “ I just want to be able to do what I want to do. Why can’t we just go to those places??? Why can’t we just go to the playground? Why can’t I do what I want?!” Again, this at first glance, sounds soo bratty. But with more attention, I realized he just wants familiarity. He just wants his normal back. He just wants some freedom. He want less Nos and more Yeses. He just wants his routine, and what he has known to be constant. And he can’t understand why this thing called The Corona Virus is keeping him from being able to these things. Stupid Corona.
But there’s more here to lament than routine and familiarity. There is also a lost of some hope and expectation. Of nostalgia. Abram is 5. Technically 5.5. What do most 5 year olds do around this time of year? They get ready for Kindergarten. Their mom starts reading, “Getting ready for Kindergarten” books she has from an older sibling. The passage of all rites of passages- getting to pick out your very own bookbag and a lunch box. One that will define your personality for years to come and set the tone for how others will interpret you. They get their supplies list from the teacher at Kindergarten Orientation and then go to Wal-Mart of Target if you are fortunate enough to live near a Target, and walk down those beautiful aisles of color in search for the perfect box of crayons. You can see the glow of all the rainbow colors a few aisles away. You can smell the wax of the crayons and see the orange with green stripes box. Maybe markers are your jam. Do you want neon or classic? Fine tip or regular size? All these choices that the child gets to decide and help them define what type of kid they want to be. How they want to be viewed. Think I’m exaggerating this just a bit? Can you still remember your Kindergarten lunchbox? Yep. Me too. Yellow Care Bears - shows I’m happy and friendly, and also -care. It’s a little bit off the beaten path of the current trends of the times- no Strawberry Shortcake or Barbies for me.
Let’s talk about Kindergarten Orientation. The cool fluorescent lights lighting your way to the door. Will you hold your mom and dad’s hand? Will you be shy, brave or a combo of the two? The strange excitement and nervousness of going to meet your teacher, see your classroom, and hope that at least one of your friends is in your class too -all for the very first time in Public School. Where will your desk be? What does your name look like all printed out and laminated for you? Can you find your name on the cubby? Which cubby is yours? How will your organize your things?
And the first day of school. What about that? Preparing the night before. Choosing and laying out your clothes for the first day. Packing your lunch and mom writing a special note in there which you have never gotten to have before! Putting all your special supplies in your book bag just the way you want it and then laying it by the door.
All of this is gone. forever. Oh sure maybe if the country gets a hold on this virus by January we could try again then. But it will never be the same. ever. It will always feel like a do-over and never the original.
These things may seem trivial and trite. But one of the many podcasts I have listened to try to deal with my understanding of all of this said this, “For every person, big or little, whatever is happening to that person, is the most important thing to them at this moment.” So if your kid cuts his finger, and is crying and going over board about it, that is because in this moment, nothing else matters. Nothing is more important than taking away that pain. As humans we try to compare and our story to each others, and see who has it better or worse off. Oh my cut is bigger than yours, your boo boo doesn’t matter. Only mine does. Or, “ You think your day was bad, listen to mine! Way worse.” Whatever you are going through, it is important and matters no matter how big or small. And honestly, this advice has helped me. I know people are dying of this virus, I know people have being evicted, losing their jobs, unable to feed their children. I know, and my heart aches for everyone. And, my and our son’s loss is a valid loss too.
Some have said, “Oh well, at least he doesn’t know what he is missing out on.” Oh but he does. Abram has walked to school almost every morning and afternoon for the past 2 years. We are fortunate enough to live 1 block away from our elementary school. Our blue ribbon school where up until now, the parents and families have been able to walk their child to their classroom door for as long as they want. So Abe has seen it. His heart knows what he is missing out on. His brother knows what he and Abram are missing out on. We have talked for over a year about how “When Abram starts school, you guys and the other cul-de-sac boys can all walk to school together.” Nope. We have practiced riding his bike to school so he could do that too. Not gonna happen. No getting to have a special first day with “Pete the Cat”, no paper hat on your head with writing “ I did great on my first day of Kindergarten” and parade out the school doors of the new Kindergarteners as they end their first day of school. It’s all gone.
And it makes me sad. Sad for him, for his classic memories unfulfilled, for his expectations not met, for his future. I am sad for his identity, for his cultivation as as friend, student, and human-being. I’m sad for the loss, and I grieve. And I’m allowed to without guilt for just one moment that my loss is still a real loss, even if it’s not as bad as yours. No, it’s not the end of the world for him. Yes, one day things will get better and hopefully be even better than they might have been. Yes I truly believe. But just for right now, I need to Lament.