His huffing, and puffing, and sulking went on for some time after his strumming. Once over his grumbing the effects of his reaction hung around the room like the faint echo and ringing after a startlingly loud noise.
Eventually I was able to let go of my anxiety and need to want to fix him, to want to make him better, to heal his wounds. This, I've found, is the hardest part of parenting I've found so far: when to lay off.
Homework came out of its folders, and went back completed. Dinner went in the oven, and onto the table. Dishes went into the dishwasher. Reading books came out for a night's worth of reading.
Eventually, just as I thought the day was over, and we were all preparing for that rest that gets us ready for the next day, our oldest came to me while I was brushing my teeth.
"Yeah?" I mumbled through a mouthful of toothpaste.
"Can I talk to you?"
"You have to promise you won't tell anyone else."
I looked at him via the bathroom mirror, spit into the sink, rinsed, then turned back to face him directly.
"Of course I promise."
He lead me into his bedroom. We closed the door together. He plopped down on his bed, and I knelt beside it.
He hemmed. He hawed. He sighed and rested his chin in his hands.
"Would it be easier if I turned around?" I asked.
"I guess so."
More hemming. More hawing.
"I just…I just don't know what to say…or do." he haltingly struggled to explain.
"I don't want you to laugh."
Uh oh. This was serious.
I struggled not to turn back to face him. "I promise I won't laugh, buddy. I promise."
A long pause ensued. I thought I had lost him again.
"I really like Cammy," he blurted out.
All I could think was "awwww." How damned cute is that?! But I couldn't say this to him, so I turned, outstretched my arms, and he immediately wrapped his arms around me. "That's all that was bugging you?"
"Yeah. But you're right, dad. I feel so much better now that I told you. You always know how to make me feel better."
Wow. What father doesn't want to hear those words, but I wondered, really, what I had done to make him feel better.
We went on to talk about first crushes, and how they're hard, but fun, and great to have, and how Cammy was a great girl, and if he was to have a crush on anyone, she was a great one to have it on. And I told him "it's great to have a crush, but you still have to get all your school work done. When it's time for that math test in class, you have to think about the math test, not Cammy."
"OK, dad." was his quick reply, and everything did seem better. He actually looked like someone took a heavy backpack off of his shoulders. This poor little guy did not know how to handle these feelings, and he didn't know who to talk to. I'm sure he felt, or worse yet, knew his friends would razz him about it.
But now I haven't heard anything more about Cammy, and the concentration problems my wife and I thought he was having in math were not concentration problems; he just dones' know his basic arithmetic as well as we thought he did.
So it's off to flash cards after school and a little extra focus on school work for a while, and wondering what the next trigger will be when he doesn't want to talk about something.