Today he argued with me about mustard. The conversation went a little something like this:
Tariku: “Mom, you’re putting mustard on that?!? You don’t like mustard!”
Me: “Yes I do, honey, I’ve always liked mustard.”
Tariku: “No you don’t, you didn’t before, I remember that you didn’t like mustard.”
Me: “Tariku, I promise, I have liked mustard since before you were born.”
Tariku: “No, I’m positive, you didn’t like it before.”
and on and on for MINUTES. Minutes, people.
It’s been like this for about 2 weeks, which is to say the length of time in which the kids have been
released into the wild on summer break. And most days I can let it roll off my back but some days he argues with me about my never liking mustard and on those days I want to call for a do over.
Because I get it. All of his disrespect, all of his angst, all of his constant arguing is always with me. Moms. They are an integral part in my Tariku’s story. Not just me, of course, but of his first mama who he reportedly looks and acts just like. When I think of her, I always think of him. Smile for days, bright eyes, playful and funny but mostly serious and determined.
And I have to believe there are times when he is interacting with me but thinking about her. I’m sure our upturned eyes when he says something funny or wise and our creased forehead when he’s on our every last nerve is vaguely similar. I can’t imagine the pain it causes him sometimes to see her in me or to look at me and be scared not because of what I’m saying or doing but because I remind him of her-of loss and heartbreak.
So on other days, days when it’s not about mustard-obviously, I’m sympathetic. I get it. Changing schedules means anything can happen. It’s why since the time he learned English he asks me what we are doing for the day and then if the car goes off course asks a million follow up questions to make sure we are doing exactly what I had said we were doing. Because of the day when he was told they were going one place and then instead went to an orphanage. That’s why he gets effed up when his scheduled gets effed up.
And I. Get. It.
But it’s fekkin exhausting some days. Some days I look at him and I can see in him the battered and tattered soul that must be looking back from my eyes too. Like two people hanging on to a tree in the middle of a windstorm. We want the same things: to be loved by each other, by other people and for God’s sake we want to love ourselves. Maybe one of those happens first, maybe they happen together-who the hell knows. But here we are, on the damn tree again. Clutching hands and searching for eye contact. A nod that we’re in it together but come hell or high water we will end up together too. Perhaps a little worse for wear but together just the same.
Some days, not days in which we argue about mustard-obviously, we do end up quite literally together. He’ll let me snuggle up to him on his bed. He’s never super relaxed, my Tariku, when I’m snuggling him but ever so closely I creep until he lets me throw an arm around him, sometimes even a leg. “I love you, you know that?” He smiles, nods his head. “No, I mean I seriously love you. Like sometimes I clench my jaw so tightly because if I don’t then I’ll squeeze you to death with all of the love I have for you. It’s too big for my body. My whole body can’t take it, so my big jaw takes it for me.” Laughs, nods. “Ok, just so you know, no matter what-it’s true.” And then as I get up to leave and my back is turned.
“I love you mommy, so much.”
So bloody, sweat and tear strained we retreat to our corners. Me thinking about how mind numbingly frustrating loving another human can be sometimes and him thinking about how I stayed. I freaking stayed.