Posts Tagged ‘mothering’

The wonder of boys.*

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

(*Not to be confused with any book by Michael Gurian. I’ve read that, and although it may be time to re-read it, I think it’s not much help to me today.)

photo by Elise Beall Photography, 2008.

So, just when you think you’ve got this parenting thing all worked out, something someone comes along to mess with your mojo. In this case, I’m talking about K, my youngest child and number 2 son. I’ve been working the parenting gig for more than 14 years now, and considered myself up in the Triple A leagues of the business…and now I realize that actually, I am not ready for The Show.

Sunday morning, as the Clan Offspring were watching something relatively mindless on Nick or Disney or Discovery, I sat down at the computer to do the Sunday wrap-up on blog reading. Cup of coffee next to me, dogs lying in wait for my next move, Hannah or Carly babbling softly in the next room, peace in the valley. I finished Coffee #1 and got up to refill the mug (I can’t get good help around here: IHOP this ain’t) and walked through the family room on the way to the kitchen.

Two boys are on the couch. One boy is engrossed in the television. Boy #2, K, is twirling a drinking straw absentmindedly and picking at a piece of napkin or tissue in his lap. (Do you see where this is going? I didn’t until) I looked up. I don’t know why I looked up, but I did. “Huh. How come there are all those little pieces of white stuff on my blue ceiling? Weird. Oh, wait a minute….” and I looked down. Straw, paper, child. Comprehension dawned. And then I lost it. (And please recall this event falls under the Time When Dad is Away in Asia for Far Too Long. See my previous post on the topic.)

(Oh, I’m not proud. I lost it. I didn’t know what else to do. So losing it seemed like a good idea at the time.)

I’ve been asking people since it happened — teachers, school administrators, friends — to explain to me what K was thinking. The simple (and unanimous) answer is, he wasn’t. This boggles my mind. How could you *not* be thinking that your mother’s head will spin around 360 degrees when she sees the 18 or so pieces of drenched-spitty-gross-mushy-goopy paper bits on the ceiling? How does that *not* enter into the equation?

I sent him upstairs after he picked the papers up off the floor (I got the ladder and flicked them off the ceiling so that he could clean up. I didn’t want him on a ladder, but oh yes he was going to clean up). My parting words were this, “Come on back down when you are ready to have a conversation that includes apologizing to me for the way you have disrespected the house we live in and the rules of our house.” (Oh sure, the argument could be made that I never explicitly forbade spitballs, but he’s an 8-year-old boy, not a lawyer, so that didn’t come up. Thank goodness.) Do you know I didn’t hear an apology until about 3 that afternoon? Stubborn, much?

{Leaving that child in his room all day is impractical, so my solution was to tell him, “Look, Buster. You are so anxious to be treated like a Big Kid, same rules and privileges as the older sibs….and yet you make decisions that show me you are not ready for that kind of freedom. I was sitting in the next room when you made the very bad choice to blow spitballs, so I have to wonder what kinds of decisions you will make when I am not in the next room. Consequently, you and I are going to be spending a lot of time together. When you are not in your room, you will be with me. Just like when you were a baby.”}

{As an added bonus of Crazy, I lit into Boy #1, C, who was sitting next to K on the couch at the time. It boggles my mind that spitballs could be happening about 18 inches from him and he had no idea. Surely they talked about it? C was all put out that he was in trouble [much less trouble, but trouble nonetheless] too, but I stood firm in my annoyance. It’s like I tell them, “If you’re with a friend who decides to rob the 7-11, the police are not going to care that you didn’t do it….you’re still going to get arrested and charged with something. You have to be aware of what’s going on around you.” Spitballs, armed robbery….it’s a short leap from one to the other.}

Elise's work again: 2008

So K and I are spending a lot more time together. Maybe that’s what he wanted, subconciously, in the first place. Nice work, Baby Boy, you got it.

Or, maybe, he just wanted to see what happens when you blow wads of wet paper up to the ceiling. “Huh. It sticks. Let’s try another one.”

Yep, that was probably it.

Remember when Mom…

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I wrote a post yesterday remembering my grandmother, who was a wonderfully elegant woman and who passed on many lessons regarding the “domestic arts” to her children and grandchildren. We are lucky to have had her as a teacher. (I know, “domestic arts” is an awfully outdated expression, but I just can’t think of a way to lump the cut glass pickle dish, the importance of table linens, and silent butler use in one category. Domestic arts it is.)

My recollection got me thinking about what my children will say about me after I’m gone. I should pause here for a moment and say that my mother and I play this game with some regularity — usually when she has done or said something mildly outrageous that isn’t so “grandmotherly:” “Oh, that’s great Mom. It’ll be the nice for the children to remember the time that Grandma told them that math didn’t matter” (not that she’s ever said that — I just can’t remember a specific instance right now that won’t get one of us (probably me) in trouble).

Back to my point. What will the children say? Will they recall the all the times I lost it because socks were left in the family room after I specifically said about 4,000 times to put your nasty dirty socks in the hamper? Will they recall all the times that I knowingly and willingly broke traffic laws because I didn’t feel like following them?

Will they nudge each other and say, “Remember the time in that 4D movie when the shark snatched the seal out of the water and our chairs shook and the whole thing surprised Mom and she said, “JESUS!” really loud in the quiet theatre?” (Yes, I did. But I was startled beyond belief. What do you say when you’ve been surprised by a Great White? That wasn’t my fault.)

Will they carry on, reminiscing about the time I announced, in front of them in a (rare) parenting judgment lapse, that my favorite word was “Asshat”? And how delighted they were that I “swore” in front of them and then, for the next several weeks, would interrupt conversations I was having with other adults to say, “Hey Mom, tell ____ about what your favorite word is,” and I’d either have to explain or cut off their air supplies (my kids, not the other grownups)?

The truth is, they’re going to recall all of it. The trick will be to have them recall the quirky and the fun in equal measure with the not-so-fun and grumpy. Like the evenings when we had breakfast for dinner or picnics in the family room.

Like the time I allowed them to make up a holiday and then decorated for it. (Children’s Day. January 16. They didn’t understand why I told them every day was Children’s Day and why’d we need a holiday for it, but I decorated placemats anyway, and we took photos.)

Like the time they found me wrapped in a towel in the kitchen one night after dinner, soaking wet, with my clothes in a pile and when they asked why, I casually told them I had gone skinny dipping. Oh, the horror! (Particularly when Dad told them he was sorry he had missed it…“Ewwww, Daaaaad!”) And I was pleased with their horror and promised to do it again real soon.

Or when I tell them “Dinner tonight is poison, with a side of poison,” or that when they tell me I smell good they cut me off and say, “I know, Mom, I know. ‘It’s the smell of clean,’ I know. I’ll take a shower later.”

They’ll remember it all. That’s good, I suppose. And it certainly frees me up to skinny dip and use “asshat” when the spirit moves me. After all, some memories are indelible.

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