When my son was very little he asked me to pose for a portrait. I have to admit, I was flattered by the request. I sat very still as he labored over his masterpiece. He took the whole enterprise very seriously. For a very long time, he would study my face intently and then return to his drawing to add more details. At last he was satisfied with his work. He put the finishing touches on the portrait and then finally released me from my pose.
“Can I see it?” I asked.
He turned the sketchbook to proudly reveal his portrait to me:
“Wow!” I said. I was aghast, but trying to be sensitive to my budding young artist’s feelings, “Is that how I look to you?”
“Uh-huh!” he replied nonchalantly, “Looks just like you!”
I recalled this incident a few months ago in the midst of an extremely complicated day…
My son’s school was out for the day, but his school team’s soccer game was still on. To complicate matters, he had made vague plans to go to a friend’s house for a sleepover after his game. My husband had left town for a conference the evening before, so livery service was all up to me. As I left for work that morning I asked my son to be ready and dressed for soccer, to have his bag packed for the sleepover, and to get his friend’s cell phone number so we could find each other at the designated pick up spot at a high school on the opposite side of town. After dropping him off, his siblings and I were going to meet up with friends all the way back on the other side of town. Is your head spinning? Mine was.
I went home during my lunch break to pick up my son and bring him back to my office. I left work a little early to drop him off at his soccer game on time, and then headed back home to pick up my daughter from the babysitter’s house and to pick up my other son as he got off the bus. Together, the three of us drove back to watch the rest of my son’s soccer game. After the game we drove on to the meeting point where he was going to get picked up.
“So you got your friend’s number?” I asked.
“I tried to ask him for it, but he never sent it to me.”
“Well, did you figure out exactly where at the high school we’re meeting?”
“I don’t know. Somewhere around the football field, probably.”
It was twilight when we arrived at the high school. We drove around the parking lot nearest to the football field, looking for his friend.
“Do you know what kind of car they drive?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“No, but just let me out here, I’ll find them,” he said with his hand already starting to open the car door as we circled the lot.
“Stop! We’ll just drive around until we see them.”
“Just let me out here,” he insisted, growing agitated, “You can go now.”
“I’m not going to leave you here to wander around the school all by yourself at night. Relax!”
“Fine! You can stay here in the car if you want. Let me out and I’ll come back to let you know when I’ve found them.”
“It will be much easier and quicker for me to just drive you around. Why are you acting so squirrelly? Are you embarrassed to be seen with me or something?”
“YEAH!” he said far too readily, and in a matter-of-fact tone that cut like a knife through butter. “There are people here! I don’t want everyone in the world to know my mommy had to drive me here.”
“Uhhhh…you’re 14. Everyone knows your mommy has to drive you everywhere. It’s kind of obvious. How else would you get here?”
How I see myself…
How my son sees me.
By now he was really getting his panties in a twist.
“Just let me handle this! This is so embarrassing!”
I think of myself as a reasonable person. I’m not zen by any means, but I’m not crazy, either. But there comes a moment when one is pushed a little too far.
“You want embarrassing?” I snapped, “Because believe me, I can unleash all kinds of embarrassing, Buster!”
And thus commenced an epic hissy fit…One to go down in the history books. I was a grey-faced, slavering Harpy, winging into Athens with unsheathed talons and a crazed glint in my eye. I was Krakatoa, spewing volcanic ash and incinerating everything within my path. I was Enola Gay releasing the atomic bomb.
I’m not exactly sure what I looked like in that moment of terrifying wrath, but I imagine it was probably something like this:
My son’s childhood drawing of me.