Monday, March 22, 2010

Suburbs of Our Discontent

"Come, let me wipe thy face” (5.2.294)

--Gertrude to her son Hamlet right before she drops dead

On Sunday, our neighbors hosted a “welcome” party for the new family on our street. It was all fun and games until my six-year-old son ran off with a pack of ten-year-olds to look for someone’s lost dog.

Running off is seriously against our family's rules: we’re surrounded by busy streets, a subway, and a large public park. Plus I’m incredibly neurotic. I was convinced that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the others. My husband was out of town, so it was up to me to drive around looking for him.

Finally, I found my son. He was eating chips back at the party. As the neighborhood looked on, I dragged him back to our house, visions of extreme punishment in my head.

Let me tell you something about my son. He’s used to being treated like a prince—by me, not by anyone else. Like Gertrude does with Prince Hamlet, I lavish attention on him and, according to my own mother, “let him get away with everything.”

Not this time. After I finished yelling at him, it was just like Hamlet turning on his mother. He freaked out: hitting me, slamming doors, like he was feeling betrayed. I’ve never seen him like that before. He said (screamed) that he wanted me to go AWAY, AWAY, AWAY. Was he embarrassed because the rest of the neighborhood is more lenient with their kids?

It just made me want to smother and control him even more. Still, I tried to keep it cool and somehow we made it back to the party. I kept my distance from him, but it was hard.

At bedtime, I was still giving him space, controlling my urge to wrap him in a python embrace and sob “I was so scared you were lost! My precious, precious baby boy!”

But imagine my joy when he kissed me goodnight and gave me his own little snake hug.

In the end, I think that Gertrude knew that Hamlet loved her best, no matter what mean things he said.

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