In my most narcissistic moments I see Caroline and Patrick as if I were viewing them through my own reflection in a fun house mirror: one version so concentrated; the other so expansive. Patrickness interprets my whatsit as if it were a beam of sunlight and he is the magnifying glass. Caroline makes me feel as if I am peering at life through the tiny slits in a phenakistoscope. But Edward. I get Edward. Edward likes to be comfortable; Edward likes to feel secure; Edward likes to know things. History, science, literature, mathematics, ancient civilizations, why someone thinks something is funny... he just wants to understand it all. It drives Patrick and Caroline crrrrraaaaaazy but I stop our audiobook about three or four times on the drive to school because Edward asks, "Wait. Why did he say that?" And I pause and try to explain the what or the why because I often feel the same need to process things when I am reading.
So I have to make a concerted effort not to over-identify with Edward. I don't want to say that he is just like me - how the hell would I know; not to mention the fact that he is barely half baked - but right now he responds to situations in ways that make sense to me and it is hard not to feel... validated by that. Really, Edward? You don't want to go to the party? You would rather stay home and read? Wow. Me too!
It's a fine line between empathy and appropriation. So fine that I often cannot see where it lies and I blindly stumble forward; navigating the spider threads that tie what Edward deeply fears with what he finds merely uncomfortable, all the while trying not to be tripped up by my own anxieties.
Tonight I had to cajole Edward into skiing because he really wanted to stay home and build something. And I understood this but, you know, fresh air, winter, exercise. Eventually he agreed to come with us but by that point Steve and Caroline and Patrick had been gone for almost an hour.
This meant that for the first time it was just child and me, in the dark, skiing, and I realized within seconds of getting on a non-bunny hill chairlift that my fear of falling is a full-on phobia. A lung squeezing, heart racing phobia. Apparently I can handle it, barely, when there is sunlight and I am alone or with Steve but when I have 48 pounds of child being pulled earthward by gravity plus darkness and skis and boots... my god. The higher we went, the tighter I wrapped my arm around him and the more tightly I twisted my other arm around the metal bar to my left. It was horrible.
But Edward, who worries about so many other things, was not afraid. So I nodded when he complained about my grip. When he told me how often he rides the chairlift and how he never has to sit so far to the back and how his ski teachers never strangle him like I was doing. And I made a conscious effort to relax my hold. A little. And when he said he wanted to go on another run we did. Twice.
But now I am having a glass of wine and I have tucked all of the children into their beds three times over and OH MY GOD DO YOU KNOW THAT SOME CHAIRLIFTS DON'T EVEN HAVE BARS IN FRONT?????????