I learned a great deal in college. I was one of those students who sat in the second row and took notes and turned in my homework, so I paid attention. In my psychology classes, we discussed the great Sigmund Freud and his stages of childhood psychosexual development. Problems in one of these stages led to issues in later life, said Freud. I dutifully wrote down the stages--oral, anal, phallic, latency, genital--and I can remember thinking that Freud seemed to think that everything was about sex. (And most of what he posited has been deemed faulty, but Freud was swimming in uncharted territory at the time. Nobody had done what he did before.) The phallic stage is the stage of development where we have the Oedipus Complex brewing, which has received a great deal of negative publicity for obvious reasons.
Last weekend Zane and I were left to our own devices while Larry went off to do soccer stuff. We were playing with cars, and I was admiring the little Shelby Cobra, when Zane put both hands on either side of my face, so he and I would be eye to eye.
"I love you, Mama." He smiled so sweetly.
"Awww!" I hugged him tightly. "So sweet! I love you, too."
"I'm going to marry you." Zane was still smiling angelically, and so was I.
Inside my head was a different story. At first I was confused, and then I panicked, because I wasn't sure how the heck to respond. What do you say to that, that isn't going to completely screw up a kid's head? Even if you don't say anything, your silence could be misinterpreted. Then I remembered my child development classes. Statements like this are developmentally appropriate, I realized, as a boy begins to figure out his place in the world. Apparently, I was paying attention in that college class. I immediately noted that Zane was in the phallic stage, according to the age ranges. Not that I agreed with Herr Freud. The boy is figuring out the boundaries, I decided. There was nothing to be concerned about. After all, I thought, Zane will grow up and be an adult, he'll get married and have a family of his own. No reason to freak out, no reason at...Holy cow! My child is going to grow up! He's going to be an actual adult! He's going to be married and have kids of his own! I took a deep, calming breath so I wouldn't hyperventilate. I remembered my promise to myself, to try and live in the now.
"No son," I kept my voice neutral. "When you are older, you will meet a nice girl and marry her. Then you will get your own house and live there."
There. That was pretty benign, right? No.
"Noooooo! I want to marry YOU and live with YOU and Daddy!" Zane threw himself down on the floor, signaling the beginning of a major hysterical conniption. I just laughed. This was the drama that I know and love--Oscar winning material, for sure. I went for the distraction, knowing my son's love of chocolate chip cookies.
"Hey, let's go make cookies, okay?"
"Okay." He was down the stairs before I knew it, the little toot.