Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Importance of Popcorn

Hank and I had popcorn last night while we watched our Netflix movie. The reason was I had a mad craving for it. It was hot and fresh, buttery and salty-so good. We had it because Henry told me a story about popcorn.

You may or may not know to take everything a four year old says with a grain of salt. Half of what they say is jumbled, and half of the other part is just not true. Not malicious lies, just fantastical, meaningless, or impossible. Henry often tells me how he is going to fly away when he wears his cape, that he can get a toy airplane that really flies at the airplane store or the pet store, and that he doesn't like pasta, but he does like pasta, but he doesn't. (He does)

Last night he told me he put a seed in his ear.
Me: What kind of seed?
Henry: A popcorn seed.
Me: You put it in your ear?
Henry: Yes.
Me: Why?
Henry: [Another student] was doing it. One of the seeds fell out of this ear, and I pushed it back in.

With some further sleuthing, I decided it was possible. The details were pretty clear and consistent. Checking for consistency is one of the truest tests of truthiness when dealing with small children.

I called the parents of the other student, emailed their teacher, and called Kaiser. They scheduled an appointment because, if it's true, it had to come out.

The doctor looked into each ear, calmly checked his eyes, mouth, nose and chest, and then informed me that, yes, there were definitely popcorn kernels in each ear, and referred us to a specialist to have them removed.

Henry did tell me it hurt a little, that he could feel them in there, and asked me to repeat what I had said three times as often as normal as we went about our day today. I was still a little surprised that they are, indeed, in there. He was very matter of fact about it with the doctor. She told him not to put things in his ear. I told him, his father told him, the nurse told him, his teacher told him. He's been told before, though. This also applies to his nose.

The popcorn kernels in his ears is an exciting adventure in our lives at the moment, but that is not the point of this post.

I started attending a Happiness Project group. I have several areas of my life that I want to improve. My sister started this group for us to work on measurable, attainable goals. I started with the most urgent, and most important of my long list. I am learning and re-learning ASL due to urgency, and attempting to be kinder to the kids our of importance. I am working and re-working my goals around this. A goal that started out as impossible has evolved into spending 5 minutes of quality time with each of the children each day, separately. When I put it into words, it sounds so lame. You would be surprised at how difficult this is, though. TV time doesn't count, and I can't do it consecutively and they are so often together. Also, they prefer their father, so trying to get one alone with me usually involves bribes. So I finally came up with the brilliant solution of having a chat with Henry each night, for about 5 minutes, in his bed, before he goes to sleep. This morning Sam and I took a walk in the puddles. We have gone to the zoo, to Michaels, out to lunch, we rock at least once a day in his glider. He's easy. Henry goes to school longer, though, and his arrival at home is followed by Daddy's and dinner, or we are eating at the grandparent's house until bedtime, etc., etc., etc. It's a challenge getting even 5 minutes alone with him.

But I was convinced that this would be a good thing for our relationship. And it hasn't been very long, but it's been amazing.

He tells me things I've never heard before. He talks about his day (something he refuses to do when I pick him up from school). His vocabulary is excellent. His feelings about events are evident. The injustices of not being able to work in the block corner because someone else is using it, me picking up Sam and not him after lunch, his hatred of rest time, and his adoration of one particular friend. The popcorn kernels in his ears.

The first night he told me he likes talking to me. He means just that. He enjoys having my undivided attention and telling me about his day. No Sam, no dad, no dinner, TV or computer. Just him in his room, with the door only slightly ajar, and Sam tucked away in his bed, drifting off, or singing loudly, or banging on the wall with a hammer, but far away down the hall.

These children are so different. This morning Henry requested his umbrella as they headed to school in the rain, while Sam requested his hood off so he could feel the rain on his head.

Henry is the one I clash with. We are the most alike. He is emotional, and he is open minded, but once he has weighed the options and made a decision, he is hard to sway. He gets the hiccups a lot. It's almost like we're related. But it makes things hard for us. I am most critical of him, rather than Sam, not because Sam is the baby, but because Henry is like a little me. I want to correct all the errors of my life in him.

He is now growing popcorn inside his head. How long would this have gone on before we found out? I had no future plans for him to see his doctor before this incident. Turns out, popcorn was the snack Monday, but he didn't tell me about it until Wednesday. This is one example of how important taking the time to talk with Henry is. I remember a time in my life where I felt like no one cared what was going on in my life. It made my life feel meaningless, unimportant, and, most importantly, that I would not be missed should I disappear one day. I never considered taking the time to chat with Henry and find out more about his life. He talks incessantly, I assumed he was saying everything that was important to him. He wasn't. He's just filling the space in the air with noise. I ask him questions when I pick him up and he ignores me. He just needs some space, and time to process, don't we all?

I feel like he's four, and maybe there's enough time left that maybe I haven't damaged him beyond repair. I want to continue to build my relationship with him. If I would've never learned about the kernels, what else would I have missed? Bullying? Girlfriends? Insecurities? The little details that I didn't know I didn't know?

This is such a revelation for me, and I feel like I'm at least on the right track.

So Hank and I had our popcorn, he carefully spooned butter evenly over his, while I doused mine. It was delicious. I asked Hank if I was talking about having popcorn before I talked to Henry, and he said he didn't think so. I look forward to more hot buttery popcorn nights as I take in the stories I learn about Henry's life. Because it's important to him, it's important to me. He is important. His life is meaningful. He would be missed if he disappeared.