A Story of Limpets, Crabs and the Ties That Bind

A Story of Limpets, Crabs and the Ties That Bind

This past Friday, Payton and I went down to the Island for a mini-day camp about the sea. The local marine research center hosted the day camp and Payton, being a marine biology child-genius, was just a little excited to go.

Is today the day of my sea class? Today!? Finally!!?!! Ohhhhh boy! This is going to be the best day ever!!!!! My sea class is today! My sea class is today! Yayyyyyy!!!! It’s the best day ever!!!!!

Like I said, just a tad excited.

I’m excited too.

So often we’re going on trips and new experiences that I’m not at all sure how Payton is going to react. The trips and experiences that give average kids thrills don’t apply to my boy. A lot of times it’s just the opposite. Honestly, the special moments & new experiences that most parents look forward to experiencing with their kids stress the hell out of me. Instead of the rush of anticipation and excitement, it’s the weight of dread and worry because I never know how he’s going to deal with it.

But this now…this is Payton’s element and I have glorious visions of mother-son bonding over hermit crabs, sand dollars and blue crabs. I’m thinking, however, that Payton didn’t get his fast learning abilities from me because I can’t learn to stop with these visions. No matter how many times things don’t turn out as I envision them with Payton, I still get stuck on these typical bonding moment visions.

The drive to the island is absolutely gorgeous once you get to the edge of the mainland and onto the long bridge over the water. The sunlight waltzes across the water as far as the eye can see and beautiful, graceful cranes glide past your car window.

It really is inspiring and has a special effect on Payton. About a year ago we took this drive and he was very quiet most of the way, until the end of the bridge when he asked, “Mom, why are we here on earth?”

Yes, it’s that awe-inspiring.

But this time, as we’re on this bridge with only sparkling ocean and blue sky in our sight, my Heir asks, “Mom, do you think we’ll find some salt water limpets today?”

The beauty of the drive must have inspired me to come up with this awesome intellectual answer for my son….

“Uhhhhhh. What’s a limpet?”

It’s such a confidence booster to know your 6 year child has your ass kicked in the intellectual department.

The 6 year old boy has to explain to his 33 year old mother what a limpet is.

I don’t know how he knows these things. And truthfully, I haven’t googled it to see if he is right. Too many times I’ve doubted his knowledge only to find out he is right

In order to save some face and look at least slightly intelligent, I tell Payton that would be a great question to ask our teacher today.

“Oh boy! I’ll ask the teacher today! I can’t wait!!!!!”

Yeah, he’s still just a tad excited. I’m still excited too and the visions of salt water bonding multiply expotentially.

We arrive on the campus and make our way to the classroom. We walk in the door and Payton literally squeals because we’re immediately faced with tanks of hermit crabs, fish and lobsters.
We find a seat and wait for teachers to come in. As soon as he sees they walk in the door, he asks me if he can go ask them about the limpets.

Oh sure, why not!

He goes to the young, pretty teacher and proceeds to ask her if we’re going to find any salt water limpets today. She screws up her face in confusion and asks him to repeat the question. He repeats and she still doesn’t get it. A third time and she still isn’t getting what he said. Hell, it was pretty damn clear what he said to me and I don’t have the marine biology degree behind my name. Finally though, she understands he’s asking about a limpet and answers his question.

Turns out they aren’t found in our waters but in other oceans. Darn.

I can tell she’s impressed a kid his age would even know about a limpet. Join the club. And then she says, “You must watch a lot of Discovery Channel.”

Um, nope. My boy is just smart. He reads a lot of ocean books. A LOT. He could start a library. He has even authored a few booksof his own.

Payton comes back to our seat and anxiously awaits for the class to start. Finally, it did.

The 2nd teacher talked loudly. Very loudly. But when Payton is in his element, he can handle more noise than usual so we seem to be doing ok.

But then….

She brings out fake, rubber flounders for kids to paint on, then press paper on top to make an imprint. And a sand tiger shark to finger paint.

Finger. Paint.

Imagine, a 6 year old marine biologist finger painting. Payton looks at me and, I swear, if he physically knew how to roll his eyes, he would have been rolling with intellectual snobbery written all over his face. And if we were mind readers, I’d imagine this in his head…

Look lady, I came to learn some new stuff, not finger paint. This is the sea lab, right? Finger painting is so K3. Haven’t you heard of my book? I know what a limpet is already and damn it, I want to find one! Hey, what’s that microscope over there……

So he and I skip the K3 activities, walk to the back of the room and fiddle with a microscope and look at dead sea specimens. The other 19 kids and parents are making a lot of noise with their paints and brushes and fingers, and I have the feeling Payton is getting a little perturbed by the noise. I ask him about the noise, but he says he’s fine so I let it be. Then, as teacher #2 walks by us, he stops her and asks when we’re going to the salt marsh.

You know, to get to the real schameal of why I even came. This K3 stuff is for the seagulls.

She informs him we aren’t going to the sea marsh this time but down to the beach instead.

Oh shit.

You would have thought someone pissed in his petri dish.

Que for the odd behaviors to begin.

The body stiffening, the digging in the heels, the absolute refusal to participate in the class whatsoever, the illogical, irrational conversation that ensues between us over the salt marsh. I see one of his temper tantrum in the works and I start to go There.

There…that place where I’m mom to the odd boy out, overwhelmed with helplessness, frustration and misunderstanding. All of my visions of mother-son bonding over hermit crabs slip away and are replaced with the memories of the numerous gone-awry “bonding” moments between the two of us.

But this time I refuse to go There. Damn it to hell, this will not happen again! Not here, not in his element.

I give him our only two options….leave and go home or wait around until they go to the beach. I’m fine with it either way. He tries to railroad me back to the tragedy of the salt marsh but I won’t do it. Two options, that’s it. You decide.

And I walk away and sit while he chews it over.

He comes back a bit later and tells me he wants to stay for the beach. But he still isn’t *right*. I don’t know what is going on with him, but I can tell he isn’t right.

Then I see him do it.

I see him pull at his bangs, which is what he does when he’s being overwhelmed with noise. And the odd behaviors now make sense, the frustration melts away. I ask him if he wants to go outside where it’s quiet and he says he does.

So we go out and just sit with each other for a while, being quiet. We’re close enough to the beach that we can hear the waves crash on the shore and the seagulls cry in the sky. Payton asks to go down to the shore and we make our own way to the beach, walking hand-in-hand on the boardwalk, and Payton and I spend the rest of the afternoon bonding over….


and hermit crabs,

sea shells,

and sand dollars,

and a giant blue crab.

For once, my visions came to be.

Even my vision of being the right mom to the odd boy out.

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