Elliot had a skating field trip at school today that I was able to go to. Today's trip was his third school skating trip -- he had two last year while in kindergarten. I've been able to go all three times.
The first time we went, he waited by my side until I had my skates on and was ready to go. We got on the ice and he promptly burst into tears. A few of his classmates asked him what was wrong, but he didn't answer. I'll never know exactly how Elliot feels in these situations, but I think the best description is overwhelmed. Lots of kids and an activity he was new at (he'd been taking lessons for a few weeks). He eventually stopped crying, but he didn't let go of my hand.
The second trip, he waited for me again, but there were no tears, and he did some skating with his friends.
Today, as soon as I got his skates on, he was off. By the time I got to the ice he'd been skating for five minutes on his own, and he didn't even notice I was on the ice at first. Then he proceeded to skate, skate and skate. He didn't hold my hand once, and apart from one skate around the rink together, he was off with his friends.
I knew I was going to write about Elliot tonight, and as I watched him today, I realized that this progression from the first skating trip to the third mirrors Elliot's life in general. He has always been uncomfortable in new situations, especially those with lots of his peers. But if you give him time, he eventually warms up and has a great time. Greg and I used to struggle with how much to push him and how much to give in to his fears, but I've noticed in the past couple of years that I don't agonize over how much to push. I just trust my instincts. No, I will never know exactly he feels, but his reactions are so normal to me that I just take it in stride. We've also starting talking more about how he's feeling, how it's normal (for him, anyway) to feel nervous, and that the sick feeling in his stomach is related to his emotions. It helps that both Greg and I suffer from a bit of social anxiety in new situations, so we understand where he's coming from.
So that's one aspect of my almost seven-year-old son. Another one that stands out, partly because it kind of contradicts what I've written above, is how engaging he is with adults. He's always been physically attractive to people (who can resist those beautiful blue eyes??), but coupled with that, he feels quite comfortable around adults and happily talks to them. Today when I met him at the school for the field trip, I had a chance to watch him in the playground for a few minutes before the lunch bell rang. He was having a great time running around (or at least he looked like he was). And then one of the other mothers from the class walked up to him and he immediately gave her a big hug. He knows her, but not really well.
Over the last year he's turned into a boy. Not a young boy. A boy. He has voiced his opinion about his hair and has asked me to stop shaving it, and I think the length of it makes him look older. But it's his mannerisms and the way he speaks as well. We were at a birthday party last weekend, and in his goody bag were some little containers of play doh. I commented to both kids that they'd received a fair bit of new play doh recently, and Elliot replied, "Yes, play doh has become quite popular lately, hasn't it?" Stuff like that comes out of his mouth all the time.
He is loving school, which is no surprise. I find it hard when the other school parents tell me how smart he is, especially when he's standing right there. Mostly because I don't know how to respond, as it feels like they are comparing him to their children. It was nothing Greg or I did, it's just him. And yes, I'm thankful. I'm also thankful that there are a bunch of really bright kids in his class, and he's not "the smartest".
Socially, he gravitates to girls more than boys. He's been the only boy at several birthday parties, which doesn't phase him at all. I sometimes joke that my kids are have stereotypically reversed genders. Elliot's the one who can sit still, who can focus on a single activity for a long time, even from a young age. It's funny watching the two of them watch TV, because Elliot almost looks comatose, and Amy doesn't stop moving.
And he has a temper. I've written about it plenty of times on this blog. When he is mad, he makes it abundantly obvious, and he uses his voice and body to make his point. I don't struggle with how to react to his anxiety, but I sure struggle with how to react to his anger. I am fairly sure that if Greg and I were to parent him a bit differently, we could avoid some of the outbursts, or at least diffuse them more easily. But we don't know the perfect formula, and being parents, not psychologists, we probably never will. Although there have been a couple of books recommended to me recently that I will try to find the time to read. Things are better than they were three years ago, the year of hell, but there's room for improvement, if only in how Greg and I react.
I think the thing that I'm enjoying most right now is related to his becoming "a boy". I get little glimpses into what the next few years will be like as he gets older and we're able to communicate at a more even level. I feel a different connection with him than I did when he was a pre-schooler. Which I guess is obvious, but it feels pretty cool to experience it happening. And he makes me laugh, which I absolutely love.