both and

by Kristen

My nephew has been dubbed “destructo-baby.” At six months he hammered a hard plastic Tweety Bird figurine against the solid oak coffee table and left dozens of dents. At nine months he ripped two sections of baseboard off the wall. At eleven months he took a bite out of the spine of a board book. At twelve months he used a hockey puck to spin a globe.

But then, I hold up my hand and say, “high five.” He smiles, leans toward me and ever-so-gently rests his splay-fingered hand against my palm.

He has the propensity to destroy and the propensity for great tenderness. He is both/and.

He rarely sleeps. And. He rarely cries.

He bites—people and things. And. He cuddles.

He eats books. And. He doesn’t complain when they’re taken away.

He is a force of mayhem and a sweet delight. He is both. He doesn’t hide either truth—he hasn’t learned to sweep the parts that have been reprimanded or the parts he doesn’t like into the shadows. He is who he is. All the time.

I, too, am both/and . . . but I’ve lost my transparency. I’ve compartmentalized in an attempt to be either/or. I fall into the trap of binary thinking, yet I know there are infinite points between zero and one. The line of my life contains them all. Still I try to control which facets I reveal of the image I’ve crafted for decades. But who is fooled?

My sharp edges and unflattering qualities take longer to surface in relationship than the time it takes for my nephew’s penchant for damaging things to emerge; but we both show more of ourselves than we realize.

 

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