Orlando and his friend jumped up from the couch, clamored up the stairs, chanting behind them, “Let’s run from Mica! Let’s run from Mica!”
I turned around to see Mica jumping over the back of the couch but slipping and landing on his face.
Take a breath, Mama.
I went over to Mica as he lay on the floor, crying. I held him in my lap, murmuring as he wailed about wanting to be with them, to be with the other boys.
I asked Orlando to come downstairs. He came downstairs and stopped at the bottom.
“Orlando,” I said. I was feeling pretty calm, though I could sense the edge in my voice. “Orlando, I do not want you to play ‘against’ games. It is not fair to the other person –”
“Unless the other person agrees to the game,” he added.
“Unless they agree. But Mica did not agree. He had been struggling to keep up all afternoon. I do not want you to exclude one of the kids in a game.” Especially your little brother!
There. There was the edge…
“Okay.” He was still at the bottom of the stairs and I was still sitting on the floor with Mica.
I guess it was then that I recognized I was upset — about the whole indignity of the situation, Mica falling on his face, Orlando leaving his brother behind. And it didn’t take a genius to see that Orlando and I weren’t really connecting. Look at our body language: still three feet apart, me insisting and him holding back.
Okay, take another breath, Mama.
Mica needed to eat and we needed to recoup, so I asked the friend to go home and then we ate and were together, and Orlando came to me and leaned against me and said, “Today was a day you didn’t love me very much.”
I closed my eyes and breathed out. It’s like that, the wind being taken out of you.
“Oh, Orlando,” I said in a soft voice. “I do love you — I always love you, but… today you couldn’t feel it,” I ended matter-of-factly.
He shook his head sadly, “No, I couldn’t.”
I asked him, “Was it because of how I talked to you earlier, about the ‘against’ games?”
“So when I am talking like that, stern, you don’t feel the love I have for you?”
He nodded again.
Well, if that isn’t crystal clear.
“I’m sorry, Orlando. I felt so focused on you not playing those type of games, I know I was talking seriously. I was a little upset. I will try not to talk that way to you. I will try to wait. But if I talk that way again, let’s think of a code-word we can say, so I will know you can’t feel my love and I can focus on giving it to you.”
I stopped for a moment. Who knows where these ideas come from, but then I said, “How about ‘bridge’? You can say bridge and I will remember to build a bridge from my heart,” I touched my heart, “to yours,” I touched his, “so the love can come through.”
Smiles and nods and hugs, and within the hour, a request for a bridge, out of the blue. And later that night at bedtime, again not because of any tension or conflict, just because.
And Mica, too. Once one of them asks, the other one does, too.
Just because that’s how much love they need.
No matter how much I think I’m giving, sometimes it gets lost in translation or missed among the hub-bub…
So now we’ve built something, a real thing, something real in the world. We can walk on it.
This bridge can hold us.