“Life With Charlie” chronicles the adventures of Darren Mattock and his boy-wonder, Charlie, as they navigate together the daring and darling world of fathers and sons.
This morning was one of those intense ‘single parenting reals’ passages and moments. It had absolutely every shred of potential to be an epic meltdown. Yet, this afternoon as I sit to reflect and write about it, I’m grateful to say that it didn’t escalate close to that. Together, Charlie and I transformed it. Here’s a ‘Life With Charlie’ story, straight from the here and now.
As it often does, this morning really began last night. Charlie stretched sleep til late and I ended up crashing with him in my exhaustion. I’d tried to put him down earlier so I could do my ‘get ready’ routine for today. Boy would have none of it. After feeling into him, I decided to go with the flow. For whatever reason, Cha just needed this extra awake time – with himself and with me.
I woke with razor blades in my throat. That was my first waking up noticing. Then, thankfully, dear boy brightened my mood with his smiles, cuddles and quirky little pre-conscious ramblings. Right there and then I made a conscious decision to make the most of this last morning of ours before we parted for five days.
When I got up, I realized that I was getting the sweats. Shortly after, my body began to purge. It was horrible. I wanted to fall back into bed right then, make the room dark and tag out. That wasn’t reality. Instead, it was changeover morning; I had to do all of my next day prep in the tiny window between waking up and drop-off, Charlie had a mufti day at school (mufti = casual clothes day in Australia) and wanted a particular shirt to wear, and I promised boy a lunch order and needed to organize that.
Most importantly, this was our last passage of space together to close our five days of togetherness to shift into being apart for 5 days. Transitions are important to me – and I believe to Charlie, too – so I always try to be in close connection during this window of time and space. My intention is to really anchor our five day stretch with a lovebomb and send him off feeling completely loved up.
As things were clearly and intensely beginning to go sideways, I noticed that I began anxiously head-tripping that our morning was going to be rough. When I caught myself looping the same negative thoughts, I brought my awareness back to my body and got out of my head. I knew we could do this. I had complete confidence that we could transform this space in our loving connected way.
I sat down with Charlie at his Lego table where he was patiently playing. Everything was taking longer this morning. This wasn’t the flow he was used to or the version of me he was used to. I explained what was going on for me. I’ve always felt an incredibly powerful empathic bond between Charlie and I, and this was one of those affirming moments. He looked right into my eyes with loving softness that said, “I’m sorry you’re feeling sick, dadda”. He nodded, smiled and went back to his game.
That moment of connection and Charlie’s compassion gave me a real lift in my spirits. It gave me the energy to say yes each of the five times he called me from the kitchen to watch a part of his Lego game. I felt it flow into his breakfast as I cooked him his favorite. Boy’s gratitude elevated the spiral and increased the flow even more. We were doing this! We were transforming our rough morning with love and connection!
Again, I sat down with Cha to explain that we had a lot to do this morning and that I really needed his help. Boy listened with intent and just said yes. He was so easy on me and with me. Things that I usually do for him, like put his shoes and socks on, he did himself this morning. Often he’ll excitedly dash out the door, leaving me to carry everything to the car. This morning, he just stepped in, overloaded himself with bags and led the way without me asking.
Lately, we’ve had a ritual of blasting Cha’s favorite song (on repeat) for the entire 20-minute drive from home to school. We sing and car dance along the way. After all of the lovebombs he’d laid on me this morning, all I could do was say yes, even though my head was pounding. We rocked out all the way to school. It wasn’t our usual hardcore jam session. Boy smiled and rubbed my arm most of the way.
It was in one of those tiny in-between moments that I was heart-struck in an exquisitely beautiful way. I felt my body fill with appreciation and gratitude for sharing that very moment. I basked in that moment and rode the wave right into the shore.
What sealed the morning for me when when we did a ‘time check’. Charlie likes to get to school before 8:30am so he can max his morning play with friends before school starts. We were going to push past it by a few minutes this morning. When Charlie realized, he playfully yanked my ear, laughed and said, “That’s for getting me to school late this morning, dadda.” And I’m going to give you another one when we get there. We both laughed. And sure enough, when we pulled up, I got another good ear yanking.
It’s the little things. This is the glue of life with Charlie and how we do life and love – as father and son.