Davis and I have a unique connection. In many ways we are completely different, and yet there is something about him that I get. I have thought about it a great deal during his three and a half years with us but struggle to put it into words. In many ways I believe it began way back at the end of my pregnancy as my body labored to make it to the proverbial finish line. Battling unbearable swelling, back, and hip pain, I thought he'd never make an entrance. How wrong I was. Not only did he make an entrance, but in our living room no less. And that chaotic, terrifying experience forged a bond of indescribable strength and substance. After a chilly ambulance ride that early February morning, rather than put Davis under a warming lamp, the midwife had me do skin-to-skin warming, and his temperature rose in no time. I have a very distinct memory of another ambulance ride with Davis a year later, this time to the A&E (ER), due to a sudden bout of bronchiolitis. I can remember like it was yesterday holding his fevered body in nothing but a nappy as he whimpered all night, struggling to get enough air into his lungs. But when he lay on my chest, he relaxed and his breathing regularized.
Davis is a mass of contradictions, both secure and independent but guarded and circumspect with strangers. He is very funny with the impeccable sense of comedic timing that you are born with and cannot learn. He is the most persistent and stubborn of my children, fearless and daring but still vulnerable. Though well-spoken, Davis's primary love language is one of touch, which I can't help but think stems back to some of the earlier anecdotes I just mentioned. When wounded in spirit, he must be held and soothed with powerful arms and calming kisses.
I give you this background to tell you about a field trip I went on with Davis last Thursday. It was his first such preschool field trip and the destination was Duffield's Farm for a hayride and pumpkin picking. This was our second visit there this autumn (remember my crazy nuts?) although our first that involved a hayride. I took Genevie as well, a special bonding time for the three of us. By all accounts, Davis was excited about the outing, even eagerly pointing out a fellow preschool classmate standing with the group as we pulled into the parking lot.
And then we got out of the car.
There were probably 15 school buses and a parking lot nearly half full of minivans and SUVs which had brought car-fulls of happy hayriders. I scratched my head. On a Thursday morning? Not what I was expecting.
Davis grew quiet, excitement vanishing, and the closer we got to the crowd, the more he withdrew. I have seen him do this before on other occasions, Christmas morning, singing Happy Birthday to him. He is supremely uncomfortable with unusual amounts of activity and sensory stimulation. He shuts downs and pulls inward. I couldn't coax a smile out of him the entire morning. He wouldn't even look his teacher, whom he loves dearly, in the eye but clung to my leg and hid his face.
I did get this classic Davis expression. Not a smile, but a genuine look.
Genevie, on the other hand, reveled in the activity and gaiety. She made friends with a little boy in our wagon and cheerfully chose armfuls of pumpkins (which we were not taking back with us). She reminded me of how Addison would have been had he been with us, and then it occurred to me that part of Davis's response was probably because Addison wasn't there. Addison and Davis have been the very closest of friends, confidants, and allies since Davis was about 6 months old. They have always been completely inseparable. Davis particularly idolizes his older brother, not unusual for a younger sibling. He wants to be just like him right down to the shoes he wears.
Without his gregarious, self-assured older brother by his side, Davis was more than a little lost. He actually does quite well for himself in smaller settings, such as nursery or preschool, but in this context I knew that what Davis needed was his older brother to help him navigate the unknown world of an overwhelming new social context.
By the time the ride was over and the pumpkin was picked, Davis slowly began to emerge from his shell. We picked out cider donuts for Daddy at the farm shop, admired the barn animals on our own, and then went to Chick-fil-a for lunch where Davis was rewarded with a red balloon, which made his day. Smiles emerged.
As a mother who myself is gregarious and thrives in social situations, this is new territory. I ache for him because I see the angst and want to make it go away, and yet I know that is probably not the best way to help him. I want to understand him and stretch him while still meeting his needs and providing that safe haven he requires, and so I grow too. I am learning right along with him except my lesson is facility with his language.