Thursday, November 5, 2015

The One with the Broken Bird

A few days ago, Matthew was attempting to stash his Spot-It game out of Emma's reach and he determined that perching it on the ledge above the fireplace was the perfect solution. In the process of trying to adequately conceal the game, he accidentally knocked off a clay bird that was standing up there minding its own business and the thing shattered against the hardwood floor into no less than 300 pieces. I was quite upset to discover that the bird had fallen to its demise, for it was a trinket (a dumb one, I'll admit) that Paul and I had randomly bought with a gift certificate I had earned while working for the Notre Dame Annual Fund. The gift certificate was to be used at an Irish Imports store near campus and there was pretty much nothing else that I liked, needed, or wanted that fell at or below the value of the gift certificate.

Then, Paul saw the clay bird and thought it was cute - it was a very fat sparrow sitting tall on its spindly legs. We ended up buying it and took it back to campus with us. It spent the entirety of my senior year perched atop my desk, watching me as I pored over textbooks, wrote long research papers, and tried to cram as much information into my brain as possible in preparation for a looming exam. After college, that bird was tucked away into a box and eventually moved with us to the apartment we shared together as newlyweds. Over the years, I had gotten rid of many knick-knacks and "dust catchers" from my childhood, but that bird always made the cut. So, for stupid, sentimental reasons, I was very upset to discover that the bird had met such a violent and tragic death.

I didn't get mad at Matthew. I tearfully just told him that he had to be more careful and that the bird had meant a lot to me. He suggested that we "tape it" but I told him that it was beyond repair. He then responded, "It's ok, Mommy...Daddy can fix it. He knows how to glue things."

I had to reiterate that no amount of glue could fix the bird. The bird was swept up and dumped in the trash. Paul told Matthew that he should apologize to me for breaking it. Matthew just looked down at his feet and walked up the stairs. While kissing him goodnight that night, I again asked Matthew if he could please apologize for breaking the bird because we always say we're sorry if we hurt what belongs to others. He again didn't say anything and just hid his face in the pillow. I got kind of mad at him then. How hard was it for him to say he was sorry? I told Paul what had happened and his insightful comment was: "He's a weird kid."

The next morning, I heard Matthew wake up at 5:00 AM. Normally, he will try to wake one of us up by breathing heavily outside our door or sneaking inside and sticking his nose about a millimeter away from mine until I wake up. It's disturbing. But this morning he did not do those things. I heard him creep downstairs and then it was silent. I went back to sleep. About an hour later, I woke up and started going through the morning routine. I headed downstairs and Matthew ran up to me with a picture. He had drawn a bird. He handed me the picture and said: "Mommy...can you get the scissors and cut it out and then we can paste it up on the shelf where the old bird was?"

I was a little confused. This happened before my cup of coffee. Matthew explained that he was sad that the bird was broken and did not want me to be sad, so he had made a "replacement bird" to take the place of the one that had been destroyed. Clearly, the artistry was very similar so it was an easy swap. But in all seriousness, he said this was such an earnest tone and with his big blue eyes eagerly gazing into mine hoping to please me. I was so touched by the gesture. This was his way of apologizing - only he did not want to say "sorry" because he truly wanted to fix the situation and to him saying "sorry" would just put an end to it. He really wanted to replace the bird and he did so in the best way he saw fit. I hugged him tight that morning - because he really is such a special kid. We have a lot of trouble with him and I really don't know what is going on in his brain half the time, but he really has such a naturally kind, loving nature, and really does wish to please. I never cut out the bird or pasted it next to my fireplace, but I am keeping the picture in the "Matthew" file to remind me of this moment. Much as I wish he would act older and more mature on a daily basis, I know that I will long for these days when the time comes where he will not want me kissing him goodbye in front of his classmates, or he will not greet me in the morning by running to me with arms outstretched, or he will not color me a gazillion pictures a day, or he will not beg me to read him "just one more" story at night. I'm doing my best to treasure these moments today, for they are passing all too quickly.