Monday, April 24, 2017

Parenthood: Week 201 - Tangerine

Slowly, Ollie pulls back the peels as I hold the tangerine. He carefully puts each piece of the peel in my other hand that I hold open for him. At times, I get a piece of peel started for Ollie but now that he is older he can mostly peel the fruit by himself. As good as he is getting at peeling a tangerine, he still needs my help to break into the peel to get it started.

Once the peel is off, Ollie hands me the fruit and I split it in half. I give half of the tangerine to him and he begins taking the sections apart.  Sitting side by side on the single step that goes down from our living room into our den, we eat the tangerine. After eating a couple pieces, Ollie takes one piece and pushes it up to my lips. I loudly chomp at his fingers and eat the section, and Ollie giggles in response. I thank Ollie for his generosity and offer Ollie a section of my half of the tangerine and he chomps at it with glee.  When we are done, Ollie takes the peels, and puts them in the kitchen garbage.

The first time I sat down on that step to share a tangerine with Ollie, he was just about a year old. He was able to comfortably sit up without support. His little fingers had a pincer grip but he couldn't grip for very long. While he could eat solid foods, he needed help managing pieces of food and getting it into his mouth.

I pulled apart the peel like petals of a flower. Ollie would grab one piece, sometimes miss and sometimes pull it the wrong direction, but he would manage to tear it off. I would take apart the tangerine for Ollie, and carefully bite a section in half and put it in Ollie's hand. Sometimes, he would get the piece into his mouth, often he would miss, but he would try, eager to get the fruit into his mouth. At times, I would place a piece at his lips and he would smile at me as he took a bite. Then he would reach for another piece and try to feed me. Often he would miss, but he enjoyed switch roles.

Sharing a tangerine has been one of these rituals that me and Ollie has enjoyed throughout the years. It has evolved and changed with Ollie's development, though the core meaning of this experience hasn't changed. It's about sharing time together, and giving to each other.

I started peeling tangerines with Ollie on a whim and it has continued over time. We don't do it every day. It had almost been a month since we did this last week. I offered him an tangerine and he immediately sat down at the step and wanted to share this moment with me.

There will be a time when Ollie doesn't need my help to eat a tangerine.  He might forget the many times we sat on that step and ate together, but I will not.  When I think about who Ollie is, I think about him trying to figure out how to peel a piece of fruit and not giving up, I think about Ollie enjoying the simple pleasure of fruit and I think about him trying to feed me, eager to share and see the joy that comes from this expression of care.

That's my boy.

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