|I love this little shit, bigger and bigger, everyday.|
With the extra time I had during his sleepover at my mom’s, I wrote a blog post, describing what happened the day before at the eye doctor as “epic.” He acted like a derranged circus animal that day; it was a disaster. On Friday afternoon my life changed a little that way. Epic has taken on a whole new dimension of fucked up since then. On Friday afternoon, after I picked him up from my mom’s house, my son - my own son - called me stupid. He kicked me. He told me, screaming at the top of his voice, to crash the car as I drove him home. CRASH, STUPID! CRASH, STUPID! On Friday afternoon, my son completely lost his shit on me.
It didn’t even sound like him… a small part of me even considered for a minute that I might really be dreaming. Other children do stuff like this, sure, but not my kid. I mean, MY kid is the one I sculpt snowmen out of ice cream for when he mentions missing winter in August; MY kid is the reason I learned to make homemade sidewalk chalk-paint. This is not the relationship we have. Short of maybe cracking open a can of beer from his booster seat, that boy must have crossed every line I have ever drawn for him in his entire life that day.
Sometimes, in the middle of a really cantankerous moment, I think about when Matthew was an infant. All the noise around me slows to a swim, and the world spills into a blur of indistinctness behind his perfect face. He’s in my nervous arms, all twenty-one inches of him, and he can’t walk or talk or make expressions on purpose. I don’t even know him yet, and that’s a strange thing to digest about a person you’ve given birth to. I’m trying hard to imagine what a feeling (oh, what a feeling!) it’ll be to know him on the day that he’s big enough, strong enough, himself enough to butt heads with me - to really show me his spirit, in all it’s surly glory, for exactly what it is. And I kiss him, love-drunk and calm. And I tell him out loud that I can’t wait.
It’s hard.. Realizing that that doesn’t go away. He’s four years old, and I still have a hard time shifting between the role of protector and disciplinarian. It’s got nothing to do with being afraid to discipline him either, which is not what I expected. I always kind of thought that must have been the reason parents "let" their children act like wild animals. I knew, watching him on the day that he crossed all those lines, that I could have spanked him into submission. In thirty seconds flat, if he’d have made me angry enough, I could have already come out of the situation on top, if that were my principle goal... to come out on top. But standing there in the driveway, watching speechlessly as the very person I birthed into being seethed at my feet - disheveled, exhausted, red in the face and sweating so badly from all of the crying that the hair over his forehead suctioned to his skin - all I could feel was compassion.
Coddling him wasn't going to calm him down this time. He wanted to make me mad. His intentions were what they were. I could sympathize with their immaturity, but they weren’t pure, and no amount of me trying to see them that way would change that they weren't. He was looking for a fight. He wanted to see me fight back. He was taking the bull by the horns, and he needed to see if he could win.
My biggest fear regarding my children has always been that they would not respect my authority. It’s not the biggest priority I have as a parent, but it’s the one I’m least certain that I can handle without reaching, at least a little outside of my own, natural instincts.
I’m not exactly of a very threatening appearance, and truth be told, I was a total Goody Two Shoes if ever there was one, growing up. I don’t know a lot about what goes through a person’s mind when they just NEED to push limits, like people often do. Especially kids. Children crave structure, even if they fight against it in the name of testing the security of it’s foundation, and if I can’t provide that security for them, then they’ll be lost. I’ll have failed them in a major way. I think about this even when… no, especially when I sympathize with the intensity of their emotions. But that’s where I’m comfortable; sympathizing.
By the end of the day, I had laid down the law, and we were back to normal. It was an exhausted, slightly shifted normal, and it took until nearly ten o’clock that night to reach… (He’s taking prescription medicine for a stomach virus (that Would. Not. Die.) which makes him extremely tired; as soon as we got home, he fell practically comatose, which meant that bedtime was pushed back.) But he was in my arms, fingers woven into mine, and we were talking to each other the way only the bestest of buddies can.
“Tomorrow, Mommy,” he asks in a very tiny voice, “can we fix my telescope? I broke it when I was angry at you. I’m really sorry I did that because I suddenly remembered that you, you, you… (his lip quivers) you gave me that for Christmas, and now I feel like I might of broke your heart.” And with that, he cries into my chest… the biggest, fattest, baby boy tears you’ve ever seen. He is truly sad, in a way nothing has made me sad enough to cry like that over in any frame of time I can remember.
Rocking him back to contentedness that night, lulling his cries and kissing his hair, I thought to myself,
It sure was worth waiting for, this spirit of his.
I just can’t help it, I love it for all that it is.