A funny thing happens when you have one kid who needs medical management and one who doesn’t. And when I say Boy Child doesn’t need medical management, I mean the child never gets sick, never gets an all-expenses-paid-less-a-ridiculous-deductible trip to the ER, never misses a day of school. He just appears to roll just with it.
That funny thing, is, though, that I realize as we trudge along, that he is me as a child and his emotional well-being deserves attention, more than I’ve been giving him. It’s dawning on me that maybe he *doesn’t* roll with it as much as it seems.
Speaking from my own experience, I wanted my brother to be well. I also wanted my mom to see me. By the time she was able to, I had moved on to the next phase of distancing myself from her.
What we’ve been noticing with Boy is his emotional control, or lack thereof. And, in typical mommy fashion, I’m looking to myself to search out where, when, and if I have contributed to the conniption fits that happen when his reality fails to match his vision. It’s in this gap that his control seeps away. He is growing into the boy version of me. Where I had a deeply quiet emotional life as a child – but nonetheless big and deep – he seems to have an equally as “out there” emotional life. Where my perceived slights went deep into my guts, feeling like a punch, his are more like a punch in the eye – right out where everyone can see. Which leaves me with a burning question: how do we teach him emotional control without teaching him to push his emotions too far down under the surface where he can’t be reached?
I knew boys in school who seemed to be completely unaware of how to let the feelings up and out. There was always a distance there that held caring potential mates at bay. My dream for Boy Child is that he has a balanced emotional life – one where he can access the right words for the right feeling and express it at the right time in a way that doesn’t explode all over the people he loves.
I have no earthly idea how to do this. I hug him when he’s mad, sad, and then I try to reprogram his catastrophic thinking with gentle words and voice. Then, I hope and pray that if I say that and do that often enough, something will take hold and stay with him. I’m trying to raise a good man by helping him get through the bigness of boyhood, and the bigness of feeling small and voiceless, and even ignored.
Something HAS to take hold.
I let him walk around the corner to the new neighbor’s house. He’s bursting for independence, my youngest. He’s been begging me to let him stretch a bit, and I’ve relented.
I stand on the sidewalk watching him as he walks away, arms swinging in that confident style he has.
“Please look back.” I think.
“Please look back.”
As if he read my mind, he looks back and waves. “Bye Mom!”
“I love you, bug.”
I feel simultaneously heavy and light. My baby boy. Confident, charging ahead, walking away. Proud, but sad at the same time.
My heart is out there walking with him. It’s his to keep.
“Play with me,” he says.
“In a minute, honey.”
And then I turn and see the wounded expression in his eyes.
“Please?” He asks.
A litany of to-do’s scroll through my head like the closing credits of a movie. The house is messy. There’s laundry to be done, dishes to put away, budgets to budget…..
“Play with me, Mommy?”
He wants my time. One of the most precious things we have is the time we get with them. And yet, how much of it do we waste on dishes, laundry, budgets, and smartphones?
“What would you like to play, sweetie?”
“I want to show you my secret hideout in my room. Then, we’ll play mini golf in the living room. Then I’ll give you a makeover. Then, I’ll perform my piano concert for you.”
It was the best piano concert I’ve ever been to.
The makeover? I’ve never looked better.
And the secret hideout in his room? So cool.
The dishes are still there. They can wait. He can’t. He’ll slip through my fingers while I’m reading Facebook, and he’ll get further and further away from me.
“I’d love to play with you, Bug. What other adventures should we have today?”
He won’t slip through today. Not yet.
Sometimes, you fall down an internet hole. The kind where you spin around, hit F5 over and over again, and then you realize, “when was the last time I actually PLAYED with my child instead of reading or writing about it?”
More do. Less talk.
I had the best date for the zoo today:
And we went out for “special lunch” afterward. I felt more connected in all the right ways than I have for a long time.
Having small kids, as I’m sure you all know, is exhausting. You’re “on” all the time. You get sick? Tough. Your sickness doesn’t register with a curious three year old. The magical, off-limits thing that’s in the cupboard waits for no mom.
Something has changed lately. It’s exciting. It all started when Girl Child took the “When I’m In Charge” class through the Red Cross. It was well worth the $30.00.
Ladies and gentlemen, moms and dads……today, I was sick. I took a nap, and no one burned the house down or drank any Windex. I checked out and when I came back, there was no need to call Poison Control, 911, or even the neighbors.
I’m cautiously optimistic that we have turned the corner from “constantly on” to “not constantly on.” There’s an unknotting in my stomach, the worry brow lines are relaxing a little (although permanent damage has been done, there) and my kids are – GASP – self-sufficient enough now that I don’t have to be “on all the time.”
I’m not sure what to do with myself. I’m on totally new ground here. That is, until someone turns about 13. Then I have a feeling I’m going to be back “on” for different reasons entirely.
I better take my sick days now, huh?
And stupid. Oh! and he hates me.
I now have a vague idea what it’s like to be a prisoner of war, listening to propaganda all day long. It’s preschooler-sponsored radio.
We’ve figured out that Boy Child is quite feisty. And by feisty I mean “Holy cow, calm the *beep* down!”
Today, after attempting to get his shoes on and tied, and him working quite hard to get away from me, I got kicked in the eye. THE EYE.
Yes, it hurt.
These are the moments that I have difficulty NOT yelling. I failed.
Boy Child has taken a shine to Girl Child’s pink Glamour Cat from Build-A-Bear.
All this led to a brief conversation with SubHub. It went something like this:
SH: He’s suddenly really liking GC’s cat. It’s kinda girlie.
SM: I noticed him loving on it alot lately.
SH: Maybe we should get him something more ‘manly.’
SH: On second thought – maybe him loving on a girlie kitty stuffed animal isn’t so wrong.
SM: I think you’re right. Let’s leave him to lovin’ on the pink cat.
I have one. He’s 14.5 months old, and increasingly challenging. I’m writing this after a miserable attempt to get him down for a nap – he nurses for nap and nighttime, and it felt more like a boxing match. So, here’s my random observations about boys:
1. Quick with a smile, easily entertained. I’m always amazed at what he finds amusing. It does take some pressure off. I have a girl who is very “Look at me! Play with me!” and it is a welcome relief to have a kid who can find things to do on their own.
2. Lock up the following items: your remote, the toilet, cell phone, regular phone, the stereo, all of your cabinets, the oven, the refrigerator, computer keyboard, computer, wine, dishwasher, utensils, clock radio, your other child’s toys (Polly Pockets in particular – although they are so small I doubt they could cause any REAL harm. Interesting poo, maybe, but that’s it. Oh, wait. Lead. Nevermind.)
3. Just wait until they find their penis. Endless source of entertainment. Refer to point #1. (and look out the for meltdown when you cover it with a diaper.)
4. Speaking of penis – a word of advice…..make sure you have a cup nearby in the tub. My hubby actually caught the pee in the cup last night, saving bathtime.
5. Balls. Not what I’m referring to in #4, but actual rubber bouncy kind. Have plenty on hand. They do seem to be a universal boy toy.
6. Cars. This also seems to be a universal boy toy. My son will get real quiet when he sees a “cool” one. He makes car noises. We were on a road trip when he was 4 months old and he would only stop crying when my husband drove past a truck.
7. Relentless “Must.get.into.cabinet.at.all.costs.”
8. Bedtime The sweetest, snuggliest, trusting, most perfect moments are when they utterly and totally melt into Mommy.
Our son is makes our family whole.
I love you, bug.