Monday, April 12, 2010

Hit and Run Love

As a foster/adoptive parent of a teenage boy, I practice what I call "hit and run love". I learned it from T. It works best with him to sneak in a hug after some shadowboxing, or peck the top of his head when he's on the computer.

Recently, he devised a new favorite joke: he holds out his arms and gives me a big hug, and then yells "Stop touching me!" and smiles. It's probably only funny if you were here when he wouldn't let us touch him at all, when even an accidental brush made him jump.

He loves to tickle us. He's also a big one for playing with our hair, especially if he's sitting in the back seat of the car. He licks the side of my face sometimes, which is his substitute for a kiss. He thinks it's funny because we can yell "Ew! Gross!" and make like we aren't showing affection.

Recently we went for a late-night walk around the neighborhood. He was chattering in a cartoon voice. Eventually a narrative emerged. He was a sports announcer, and I was the "champion of the world." He grabbed my fist and held it aloft as he carried on in his goofy voice "Ladies and Gentlemen! The champion of the world! How DOES she do it? Ladies and gentlemen, not with violence. She does it with WORDS and HUGS and KISSES! That's right, WORDS and HUGS and KISSES!"

Inside, I had one of those "Is this really happening?" moments. After all, most of the time, he lets me know that my parenting is annoying to him and we leave it at that. I played along, acting the sports announcer myself. "Ladies and Gentlemen, we go behind the scenes at home with her personal trainer, T. Now, T., tell us how you do it? How does she train?"

He said, "Well, at first, I thought just WORDS were enough. I didn't think hugs and kisses were REQUIRED. But she came with the hugs and kisses ANYWAY. And now it's words AND hugs and kisses! That is how she does it!"

We made riotous sounds of fans going crazy in the stands. T. in his fictional role announced to the world that from this point forward, there would be no more violence - that words and hugs and kisses would prevail. We danced around like boxers.

Ten months ago when we met him, I would NEVER have imagined him at play. He never smiled. He answered every question with one refrain: "It don't matter." His eyes told an incredible story and he was extremely keen. You could just about hear him thinking. But he was not an obvious comedian, and he had the mournful air of someone who has seen too much.

Being with us has not changed him - it hasn't been nearly long enough and I'm not so vain as to take any credit for whatever happiness is showing now. Everything we see now was part of him all along, but he was holding it in reserve. It is mind boggling to me how much he was able to hold inside. The T. we met last year was like an iceberg, showing a tiny tip above the water, with enormous depth beneath that we didn't even get to glimpse until about six months into our relationship with him.

Comedy and tragedy are flip sides of the same coin and they are dual strains in T.'s personality. He has turned out to be wickedly funny. He uses humor to bond, to say things he can't say with a straight face, to act like a much younger child when he needs to get that sort of parenting, and to smooth things over with peers. His sense of humor reminds me of comedians like Jim Carrey (homeless as a child). He's that kind of funny. It has an edge of anxiety to it, and grows out of intense vigilance and keen powers of observation. It will serve him well, I think.


SocialWrkr24/7 said...

You just made me cry real tears at my desk at work. I needed that today - thanks!

Hit and Run Love is just what some kids need.

Anonymous said...

I love this! He's an incredible boy and he has incredible parents nurturing that in him.

GB's Mom said...

Great work!

Mrs. Basement said...

this is the awesomest things i ever read on a blog. like seriously. words AND hugs *AND* kisses!!! araaararaaawrrrararw! once i asked a kid why he never said anything after i gave him compliments, like "I really love the way you write notes on your hand to remind you to concentrate." I asked him what he thought, what he felt when I complimented him and he said no and he shouldnt tell me. I said ok. he said, i tingle. these stinking kids! Also, please take every ounce of credit for this. we have to take responsibility when they fail and we HAVE TO take responsibility when they succeed. at least until the age of 18.

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