Seth is relaxing. Geoff and I both see it. Friends and family have commented because they see it, too. It's exciting to watch this kid become the kid we see.
One of the most hopeful things is that he's really relaxing about me. I'm giddy about this! He reaches for me now. He lets me kiss him with almost complete freedom, and I can tell him whenever I want, now, that I love him. His guard has been coming down. A week or two ago, I wondered if he was even conscious of the fact that I was kissing his cheeks, neck, ears and hair whenever he climbed on to my lap; he seemed totally oblivious to what I was doing and never, ever commented or reciprocated. But then one time a week or two ago he leaned (accidentally) against Matthew and it was Matthew who bent over to kiss Seth's cheek. Seth threw an on-the-floor fit - so incensed was he that it was Matthew, and not me, demonstrating physical affection towards him.
Well, I'll be, I thought. He does know that it's me kissing him and holding him and hugging him when he leans into me. He's just letting me! It blew me away. Now, a friend told me that of course he knew it was me - Seth is about the most observant kid we've ever met and doesn't miss a thing - her point was that of course he knew it was me. Still, I guess I hadn't dared to hope...it's been a really long road.
Then came Friday morning, three days ago.
Seth and Lizzie and I dropped Matthew off for his art class and came back home for a couple of hours. As we walked in from the garage to the mudroom, Lizzie looked at me and said "Mom, you're so awesome!"
"Thanks, Lizzie!" I said. I couldn't help but smile, even though I'd heard this from her, and other expressions of affection, a hundred times just this month. "That's so lovely to hear. I think you're pretty terrific yourself, you know!"
"Seth," she continued, looking at Seth. "Don't you think that Mommy's just awesome?"
Silence fell for a moment as I didn't jump in right away to help him out. I was curious about what he'd say. This is the kind of question that usually sends Seth into something akin to a small panic attack; he just can't go there. He's been through too much, lost too much, been bereft too young of the people who meant everything to him. He just can't go there emotionally. So usually I help him out, jump in to save him from how hard it is. But I also know that he's been relaxing lately and so maybe on that day I just wanted to wait for that heartbeat to hear how he'd respond this time.
Sure enough, he freaked out and covered his ears...though not quite panicking to the extent that he usually does. That was surprise #1.
I bent down and looked Seth in the eye. I asked him if words like that really freaked him out that much still. He said "sometimes." I asked him if, when I told him that he was awesome, those words also freaked him out. I told him that I would be ok not saying those words to him for a while if it made him uncomfortable.
"NO!" he shrieked.
"No what?" I asked, a little taken aback by his vehemence. "No, you don't want me to use those words with you; or no, you don't want me to stop saying that I think you're awesome and things like that."
"I don't want you to stop saying them," he said, sounding angry, but I knew that this was just his defence system making it hard for him to get words of need out.
"Does it feel good when I say those kinds of things to you Seth?" I asked, still at eye level with him. I was pushing him just a little, but I sensed he was ready for it. "Because I'm really very happy to keep telling you the kinds of things that I love about you and how awesome I think you are."
"Yes, it feels good," he responded, his voice low and gravelly; it was so painful to admit.
"Ok, Seth. That works for me," I responded and I gave him a quick hug. "I'm glad it feels good for you. I think that would feel good for me too, to hear that from you some day; but in the meantime, I'll keep saying it."
Seth stared at me. Intensely. (As if there's any other way for Seth!)
Then surprise #2.
"Lizzie, leave the room." It was Seth who issued the command. I suggested to Lizzie that she go and wash up while I spoke with Seth in private for a moment.
"Mommy," he said, once he was sure Lizzie was gone. "You look over there." He pointed me towards a wall in the mudroom.
"OK," I said, wondering. I turned my body away from him and looked at the wall.
Then Seth was behind me with his face pressed into my back. What? I thought. I waited. His face pressed harder.
"I do think you're awesome," he whispered, so that I could barely hear.
I was bowled over. Just bowled over.
My precious, emotionally-so-careful little boy, was vulnerable with me, letting me know, despite not being able to face me while doing it.
He thinks I'm awesome. He thinks I'm awesome. He thinks I'm awesome. It was a chorus of hallelujahs I heard coming out of his mouth!
It's a first. It's taken twenty-one months for him to say words of any such ilk, and he never says something that he doesn't mean. That's a huge expression of love from my wounded, fragile son.
He thinks I'm awesome.
He thinks I'm awesome.
As I reached behind my back to touch him, hold him, because it was obvious that he didn't want to face me quite yet, I had tears in my eyes and a broad smile tucked deep into my heart. I don't know who needed that moment more - him or me.
In the big question of he loves me, he loves me not, I know now which petal I'd pull last!
And there's more.