Ellis, age four (2007)
In many ways, my relationship with Ellis is marked by separation. We only lived together in the same house seven days a week for the first twenty-one months of his life. Before he turned two, my relationship with his dad had fallen apart and we made the arrangement of sharing our boy back and forth each week. Ellis has said that he thought it was weird when he first found out that many of his friends only have one house. It is the rhythm of his life and our relationship, and while time and routine have created a callous to protect my heart from our weekly separation, at times I feel like Demeter yearning for her Persephone during the months she is mandated to stay in Hades.
A few months ago, he started phoning me on the days he is with his dad. It started out with a simple short call one evening to say that he missed me and wanted to hear my voice. Soon we developed a habit of evening phone calls, much longer and full of interesting stories, reflections, and sharing our days. I don't ever call him because I don't want to disturb his life with my needs, but I am always grateful to receive his call.
Ellis has matured a lot in the past year, and I think the calls are another indicator of how his brain has developed. He is trying to learn how to have grown-up conversations with people, and I'm honored that he has chosen me to be the person who teaches him how to do that. Say what you will about the mixed bag that is Freud and his Oedipal complex, but I do think it's true that our mothers are our first girlfriends (for children of both sexes, actually) and that our parents are the first to teach us about intimate relationships, whether they are aware of what they are teaching or not. I take this responsibility seriously because I want my boys to have great capacity to give love to others and to have high expectations for the love they receive. I want them to know the power that words have to connect us and the importance of being real in our communication.
Part of being a healthy person is learning to balance the tension between living our separate lives and living in connection with others. Due to my own childhood traumas, I developed abandonment issues. The nature of my relationship with Ellis could have exacerbated them, but instead, I have found great healing in the rhythm of separation and connection that we have. As a new parent, I made the observation that our children's job is to grow away from us, but there is another side of that, too. They grow, they individuate, but they also return, seeking us, seeking answers, finding themselves in us as we find ourselves in our connection with them.