I can be a little bit dramatic. Every once in a while, if the moon is properly aligned and my blood pressure is exactly at 110 over 75 and every angel that needs wings for the day has their wings, I can be the most dramatic person on the face of the Earth. In all of time and space. See what I did there? I was dramatic in describing how dramatic I can be. Hey, this creative writing thing is a gift. It’s not like they teach this in high school. Oh wait. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, DRAMA! My behavior these days is vastly different than, shall we say, in my 20s. I mean, I would hope that was true of most people. However, a quick look around Los Angeles shows either the inability or lack of motivation for a beautiful slice of the human race to just grow up. That’s okay though. I’ll just do me. These days I don’t indulge in the type of drama that is disruptive or damaging to my life or the lives of those around me. I am pretty good at mostly accepting situations for what they are, but I can get a bit wound up when there are certain fears involved. Finances, personal health, ambition and, yes, my parenting. These things all ring a particular bell in George’s head. While I may not be making mountains out of molehills anymore, an inability to accept reality or to accept that you’re doing everything you can in the current moment IS kind of the same as being dramatic.
Jack is not that type of dramatic. Jack’s drama is not born of a world that invokes an unearned weariness the way mine, and most of humanity, does. He does not create problems out of thin air. Jack reacts to things as though they are the absolute worse thing that has ever happened to ANYONE EVER because he truly feels that these mass injustices are the worse thing to ever happen to anyone ever. If Jack falls at the park the entire park knows it. Likewise, when Charlie infringes upon what Jack sees as his personal world the entire house knows it. This same response does not seem to apply to all situations though and is pretty specific on his moods. While at the park I can witness Jack either not caring if a child tells him that he doesn’t want to play with him or having it send him into a little bit of a “woe is me” isolation. Like anybody else that is emotional immature (no matter the age), Jack’s reactions are typically out of his control and they can be a bit over the top sometimes. Not in a scary way, but in a wonderful way. He gets so damn excited about everything. It’s like watching some one that was just dropped into the world for the first time and they discover that ice cream exists. At times EVERYTHING is like discovering ice cream for the first time to Jack.
A lot of this springs from Jack’s inherent nature. Like me, Jack is very sensitive. To things both good and bad for us. He seems to feel more than most and it’s something that I’ve seen provide him with endless joy and it’s something that I fear will one day supply him with tremendous grief. I don’t like to project sadness onto my son and I try to stay out of predicting the future. That said, my own experience with being over-sensitive is that the world can seem rather overwhelming at times. I know. I know. “Welcome to the human race.” However, when I was younger, a lot of that over sensitivity, coupled with an inability to self-regulate my emotions sort of lead me down a rabbit hole of anxiety. Even simple things seemed too much. Going to the DMV would give me the sensation that I might fall into a black hole never to return. It’s not as extreme, but I can see a little bit of that with Jack when new situations are approaching. He will sometimes embrace them and wrap himself in the wonder of a new experience. Other times he will cling to what he knows and not want to alter it in anyway.
I can relate to that. Jack is uncontrollably experiencing all the things that I worked so hard to avoid for a lot of my life. He is unadulterated emotion. He feels so much and it much be so damn fast and confusing at times. My job as his father is to help him sort some of them out, attach some knowledge to them and maybe why he’s feeling them and keep him as safe as reason allows. My job is not to shield him from them or to make others adapt their behavior to suit him. My job is not to shape the world to him, but to try and help shape him into the world. Though even that is an impossible task. I suppose my only real job is to be there for him when he realizes that the world won’t bend to his will. Once again, to pick him up when he falls.
So, I don’t discount his feelings in the moment. To do that would be misleading him into believing that there is a wrong way to feel or that some of his feelings are less valid than others. What kind of message am I sending if I want to have a heart to heart with him when ever he’s angry, but I tell him to “Stop it!” when he gets sad because his brother just knocked down his LEGO bridge? I’d hate for him to think that being angry is alright, but that being sad is not. Too often do I see little boys completely able to express their anger, yet somehow incapable of expressing when they are just sad or when they are afraid. I think it’s important to know that anger is a secondary emotion and that under it I’m usually afraid of something. I want Jack to know that when he’s angry it’s because he’s afraid. I want him to know that it’s okay to be sad. I want him to feel guilt about something he DID, so that later on he doesn’t have to feel shame about who he IS.
All of those might be lofty goals for a guy that is just trying to negotiate who gets to play with which Thomas train. Sometimes, I’m just stopping the fight and I miss whatever opportunity there might be for all of us to grow. That’s okay. With
two three boys in the picture, I’m pretty sure that I’ll get another chance.