Monday, November 30, 2009

Where The Wild Thing Is

There are days that I long for the kind of anxiety that causes kids to cry, and seek comfort in the arms of people who love them.  But that’s not the course that J’s anxieties have taken.  I don’t know why he has so much fight in him.  Probably has something to do with the fight-or-flight response.  I think he was only wired for fight.  I try to tell myself that it will be a benefit to him someday.  That he’ll be able to protect himself, and stand up to people.  I just would rather that he didn’t stand up to ME.  I’d prefer that he just unquestioningly accept my profound maternal wisdom and just do what I ask.  Go get dressed.  Find your shoes.  Please!

Last month, I took him to see “Where the Wild Things Are” in the theatre.  It was his first time in a movie theatre, though he insisted that he had been before.  He was nervous and excited.  Since no one tried to look at him or talk to him, the excitement won out.  He enjoyed the experience, despite the fact that he walked right into a pane of glass on our way out of the theatre.  And since he wasn’t really hurt, and no one looked at him or talked to him, he recovered from that fairly quickly.

For me, the whole experience was much more profound.  I’ve always loved the story of mad Max and the Wild Things.  And they did a great job with the movie, made it much more dynamic and true-to-life.  It was also heart-wrenching--at least for me.  Half-way through the film, I realized that Max was the embodiment of J in so many ways.  He yearns for time and attention, love and consistency.  He is so overcome by the strength of his emotions at times that he doesn't know what else to say except, "I'll eat you up, I love you so!" He cherishes time spent with his older sisters and is crushed when he’s pushed away, even if it is due to his own behavior.  He doesn’t realize that he hurts people with the way he acts.  He wants to escape to a wild land where he can do whatever he wants, but longs for the comfort and familiarity of home once he’s there.  He’s sometimes out of control without really understanding why.  Or how to stop.

Max put it quite succinctly in the film as one character was fearfully waiting for an outburst to subside, “He doesn’t mean to be like that.  He’s just scared.”  She was struggling with the knowledge that this other out-of-control character depended on her and loved her.  And though she loved him as well, she longed to be free.  To pursue a less treacherous path, to leave the anger and outbursts behind in search of peace and understanding.  I suppose she would be the character to represent me.  Except that I know the treacherous path is the path I must stay on.  If I disengage, there will be no one who can pick up the pieces and make everything all right.  If anyone can.

In the end, of course, Max leaves the Wild Things.  Their fate is left uncertain.  There’s no one there to help them through their troubles.  Well, except each other.  And the audience is left unsure of their ability--or willingness--to pull together.

But Max returns home, where someone loves him best of all.  Home to a loving, understanding mother who forgives everything and just embraces him.  I don’t know if I can be that mother.  If I can forgive everything and embrace my wild thing, and all the trouble he trails.  But I will continue to try.  I suppose that if there is a path that can craft me into that person, it is the one upon which I walk.  Perhaps my wild thing, with his roaring and gnashing and rolling, will be the thing that tames me.  And I hope he knows that wherever I am, THAT is the place where someone loves him best of all.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Such a sweet little boy but he can certainly be a "Wild Thing" at times. I admire your patience - day in and day out, although I'm sure it's a challenge at time. He's a lucky kid to be a wild thing and still have someone who "loves him best of all."