You see, having four children from adulthood down to Demon Baby, I have come to be convinced of something.
Every child is perfect. They emerge from the womb utterly who they are. Perfect and delicious. They are the closest beings, I think, to heaven, to God, to whatever your understanding of him or her is.
And then, mostly, the world messes with that perfection. They are crushed by the insults of others, or they are hurt by a parent's careless words or a burned-out teacher's relentless picking, or by poverty or parents with significant problems, or in extreme cases, they are abused. Having spent a couple of years working as a mentor to unwed teen mothers in one of the worst 'hoods in Florida through Children's Home Society (as a volunteer), I can attest to teens thrown away. Just on society's garbage heap. The work I did was the most painful and rewarding work of my life. I cried, regularly. As I often tell a friend of mine, "I am rarely bored and often heartbroken."
And having spent some time thinking about it, I have come to the conclusion that it isn't about Demon Baby's journey but my own. I believe God sometimes sends a parent the child who will teach you about unconditional love in ways you simply didn't believe was possible. Apparently, God thought I was worthy of being taught. My lessons come in a tiny little package of impishness.
If my greatest pain in life is a Cheeto-encrusted carpet, I have a very good life indeed. I am a better person for having this child . . . I believe the universe looked at my personal failings--a lack of patience, an inability at times to be in the moment, a perfectionist streak--and said, "Ah ha . . . we have just the cure for you. He will often be naked, he will challenge you at every turn, and maybe THEN you will learn what it REALLY means to be a mother."
In the light of day, this was our conversation yesterday. He and I were on my king-size bed, whispering.
"Do you have something to say to me?"
"I'm very sorry I was so naughty."
"Why did you do that to the carpets?"
"For my superhero powers. When I eat food from the floor, it increases my strength a hundred times."
"I don't know. It's just how it works."
"If you continue to do things like that, though, I will have to take your superpowers away." (Thanks to the people who suggested this bit of Ninja Mama logic.)
"That's not possible."
"All my strength is deep inside my soul. You can't get it out."
"I will take it out while you are sleeping. Through your mouth."
He opened his mouth wide. "See that?"
"My superpowers are a hundred times bigger than my mouth, you couldn't pull them out in my sleep. To even try, you would have to surgically open me from the bottom of my head ALL the way down my back and even THEN you couldn't pull ALL my superpowers out."
"Seriously. That's how strong I am."
"I don't know that I can continue to debate this with you. Look . . . you made me cry. Do you like doing that?"
"So next time, can you remember that it was hurtful to your family and TRY not to do such a naughty thing."
He came very close to me and rubbed his cheek against my cheek. "Okay. I love you, Mom."
"I love you too."
We hugged for a while. And then he climbed from the bed and was off to challange the world. His last phrase and he left the room was, "Victory is mine!"
I was struck by the world he lives in. That he knows deep in his soul he has something special. And I reminded myself . . . I have four healthy children. My adult daughter calls me every single day of her life to talk for an hour and hangs up EVERY call with "I love you and miss you."
Today . . . I have perfect clarity.
The lessons we have to learn sometimes come delivered by little boys with orange hats and superpowers. And I am very lucky I was considered worthy of being taught.