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Jan 25, 2008

Tyler the tenderhearted

Last week Tyler started having issues with going to school. Oh, he still had issues when he was at school, but begging to stay home was a new, ornery twist to the morning. Until yesterday his protests were manageable. Yesterday morning, however, Tyler shifted into total meltdown mode as soon as we hit the classroom. He begged and pleaded and sobbed and shuddered. He wanted to go home and be with me. I offered to stay awhile to help him transition, sensing that a little one-on-one would soothe his soul. Tyler enjoyed having me make sculptures out of play dough and paint his hands for H-page hand prints, but every few minutes he dissolved into a heap of shuddering tears. Eventually I just decided to leave him in his teachers' hands. As it turned out, he was fine without me.

At home after school, Ty settled into his usual routine -- lunch, a show, then quiet play time in his room. He announced he wanted to take a little nap and set about choosing some books to enjoy in bed. I found him some time later, sitting on the floor surrounded by about two dozen picture books, a favorite propped open in his lap. A music CD played in the background. This is classic Tyler behavior, at least when he's alone. I was glad to see him happy, content, and lost in his little world.

By the time 2:00 hit, I was stressed out. We were due to leave in less than two hours and I couldn't imagine being ready in time. Pressure mounted and I didn't handle it well. But eventually Elvis left the building.

Fast forward three hours. The boys and I were on the plane, headed for Phoenix. We were all a little giddy with anticipation. I was relieved that Gavin nursing during takeoff and didn't cry. I was determined that my little entourage would not turn into a circus side show on this plane. That fantasy lasted until just before the in-flight beverage service, when Tyler burst into tears. He missed his daddy. Quiet cries quickly gave way to the morning's shuddering sobs, and plaintive cries about his beloved father turned into pleas to turn the plane around and go home.

In the midst of Tyler's lengthy outburst, Zachary started asking went the plane would land. We had completed about 30 minutes of a 2 1/2 hour flight. When I explained how much time was left, Zach began to wail. At this point Gavin got a little fussy, too, so I figured now was as good a time as any for me to cry. So I did.

Actually, I was mostly laughing. In some ways the situation was hilarious to me. But as I was shaking with not-so-quiet laughter, I started to cry a little, too. Suddenly the stress and emotion of the last two weeks bubbled to the surface and spilled over. In that moment I felt overwhelmed and incompetent and embarrassed. I felt alone and scared and unsure of the future. The boys eventually noticed the tears streaming down my cheeks and immediately stopped their own tantrums to stare at mine. That was the turning point; we recovered quickly from there.

Seeing Granny and Holly waiting for us at the gate (special passes in hand) was a gift from heaven. A passenger from the plane interrupted our reunion to tell me he thought I was the bravest woman he had seen in a long time and that my kids were just fabulous. Naturally, I cried again.

A good night of rest did all of us wonders. Tyler bounced out of bed this morning with a grin on his face. He ran in to hug Gramps and said, "I always wished that I could be at your house!" He tickled Gavin on the floor and said, "Good morning, Tootlebugs!" He looked around in awe at Aunt Holly's bubblegum-pink bedroom and exclaimed, "Holly's room is sure cute. Are only girls invited in here?" And finally: "I'm so glad we're here." Me, too, Tyler. Me, too.
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