Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.
—Seamus Heaney, “Digging”
I didn’t mean to be cryptic before; I just didn’t want to get into it before I really had a chance to dig into it. But it’s time and it’s time, and here goes: After talking about relinquishment and regret, Ruth and I talked for an hour and a half about my relationship to Cricket.
Ruth feels that I’m not doing enough to build a relationship with Cricket. The reason that Cricket prefers Mr. Book, she says, is that Mr. Book is open and emotionally available to him. And he is, much more than I am, although at the last visit he ended up drawing more and more away from Cricket as Cricket continued to be aggressive with Joey and with Mr. Book (kicking him and so on). I said I am not great at the “Okay, Susie, here is your one chance all year to bond and be awesome, so don’t screw it up!” situations. I would do much better if we had more chances to make contact so that each chance was not so high-stakes. Ruth let me know that Skype, phone calls, and more visits are out of the question right now. I did not say I was also busy at the visit trying to protect Joey from Cricket or I really needed you to be more actively involved with your ungentle son. I can’t figure out a way to say those things that doesn’t sound critical, because they are critical—in both senses.
I brought up the cards and letters that I send throughout the year, and she said that those are great, but not enough to build a relationship. I agree with her, but I’m not sure what I can do. No matter what kinds of plans I make, I am completely panicked at visits; Cricket and I carefully observe one another at a distance. Ruth says that we’re very alike in our brand of shyness. I expect a visit in the coming year, if we have one, to be worse: Now I have two boys to protect.
After Cricket hit Joey, Ruth told me that Joey and Kit would have the same problems in two years’ time. We’re only eight months out, but at least so far I am still as skeptical as I was when she said it. Joey took a few months to get used to Kit’s presence, and of course what Kit can do and how much he can annoy Joey is ever changing—but he is very gentle with his brother, more so than Kit is with him. When Kit tries to bite Joey or Joey clearly is getting to the point where he wants to shove Kit away, I sit with the boys and talk to them about gentleness. Kit isn’t hurtful on purpose, and neither is Joey. Of course, they have the privilege of almost endless contact with one another; who knows how uncomfortable they might be if they only saw each other once a year. Neither one seems to be naturally aggressive, though, whereas Ruth has told me before (before Joey was born, in fact) that the reason we can’t go anywhere on visits is that they worry that Cricket will attack another child. I don’t see anywhere to go from here that isn’t critical of their parenting, so I’m going to end this ‘graph.
I wasn’t angry when we had the conversation, but I got angry later; I feel as though the situation as presented is lose-lose for me. I need more contact in order to not be intimidated and overwhelmed at an annual visit; I can’t have more contact, but have at least been reminded that I am failing and disappointing my son’s mom. For now, I’m doing the only thing that I can think of: praying that I can let myself feel more love for Cricket and more investment in him without getting overwhelmed by the loss and my lack of presence in his life.