Here’s my view from across the way:
Kind of amazing, right? I don’t know if the man who occupied this window seat before me noticed he had a coffee date, but I was certainly enthralled. I’m back at my mammoth copyediting job after a long weekend of great fun with crazy cousins (I include my own under that designation), the only casualties being a minor stomach bug generously shared, a general indifference to John’s backyard garden, and a smart case of contact dermatitis I’m pretty sure Jonah picked up from burying himself in sand after freezing his patutti off in Lake Erie. O, but it was fun!
Jonah started therapy camp and swimming lessons Tuesday. The former includes his “favorite object” Miss Cynthia (his intervention aid at school) and is a good bit of fun. The latter is freaking him. Though he passed Red Cross level one swimming the first time around and went through level two last summer (which he’s repeating again now), he quite a bit more anxious. It doesn’t help that swimming lessons are at 6:30 pm (he could use a good blast of Kansas summer wind); the kid chatters and shakes all over. His little bikini-clad classmates give him sweet pats on the back and look very concerned. But last night he was almost in tears, terrified he was going to drown and incessantly asking me when it was going to be over.
It is my suspicion that he’s starting to recognize that most things are harder for him than for everyone else. What he wants to be able to do doesn’t quite match up with what he’s capable of now. It hurts, for him and for me. I am one to pick up new skills easily, and—quite mistakenly—I’ve always assumed it’s that way for most people. Work hard and set your mind to a task and you’re bound to succeed. But life isn’t always like that. For some people, it’s hardly ever like that. I’m not saying in any way that Jonah is doomed for failure, but seeing him try so hard and still struggle to master a skill realigns the slant by which I see people. Frankly, I’m ashamed of the way I have settled my standards on the shoulders of pretty much everyone I love, much less meet on the street or become generally acquainted with. It’s an insidious kind of judgment that can be easily rationalized away, but it’s judgment just the same.
Once again, it’s abundantly clear that my children teach me more about mercy and love and the work of being human than I have been able to pick up in the previous thirty years of my life. If you’re serious about becoming your better self (as my friend June puts it), my advice (not that you asked for it) would be: Make love! Make babies! And then pay attention.