"I'M NOT. GOING. TO BE. YOUR MAMA. ANY. MORE!" he shouted to me from his bedroom. A particularly angry, small boy now sits upstairs rattling plastic Mardi Gras necklaces on his bedroom floor, attempting to upsest me, as if he is the ghost of Jacob Marley and I am Scrooge. Of course, right now it is likely that, to him, I am Scrooge.
You see, tonight we came home from school and made cookies. Out of the blue, the Mama who swore the other day that she would rather live in Namibia than bake cookies... Wait, that wasn't it... Uh..no, hmmm, oh yes, is too easily distracted to bake cookies ...but, you get my point; I made cookies with my son. Unfortunately for him, I expected that he eat all of his supper or he could not have one. He refused to do so and consequently, I let him sit and watch as I put them all away. Then I sent him to bed at 730, as is the usual routine that I attempt to follow on the nights I don't have school.
Now he is upstairs screaming at me. Not necessarily a fit-throwing scream, but something much more dramatic.It sounds as though he may have been wounded on a battlefield and missing an appendage. He knows I have been given the tremendous gift of an ignore switch so he has to try extra hard to shake me. The best part is that the switch is automatic, kind of like those motion sensing lights that come on when a squirrel goes running through your back yard. Yes, you know what I mean. The very same light that prayer and an act of congress couldn't alight if you happened to be standing at the back door in the rain with what feels like a sleeping high schooler on your shoulder and loaded plastic grocery bags dangling, stretched to their tensile limit from your wrist. Why the wrist, you ask? Because I have to have some place for my keys. Dont judge! You know you have all done it. Too lazy to make a second trip, we would much rather risk near amputation to keep from going back out in that weather. My ignore switch engages the second I hear whining, excuses or other pathetic lamentation, especially when I've already laid down the law, as is the case now.
As I sit here unwinding, I'm exercising my gift of ignore. He is angrily hurling dramatic screams of "OOWWWWW! Maamaa! It hurrrts!" down the stairs in my direction. A moment ago, he was kicking the wall of his bedroom as if practicing some football agility drill. That ended when a silver piggy bank full of foreign coins fell off the hallway shelf sounding like real damage had been done and looking much more devastating to the pig. I opened his door and made him come and survey the scene: bisected piggy, coinage littering the stairwell, and then expressed my disappointment that his rude behavior had broken something I'd had since I was a baby. (See, I can be dramatic, too. Bwahahaha!) You all know the pig I mean. Babies everywhere have those little stainless steel piggy banks that open very easily with a twist. After I closed the door, I patched up poor piggy and replaced his contents. After hearing him shout once more that he doesn't want to be my Mama anymore, I head down the stairs to the living room. I am invincible! His rants cannot break through the force field which engages once that switch is tripped. I'll admit that briefly, I was concerned before the pig incident when I intially heard the tortured soul upstairs begin screaming and writhing in pain. "Oowwwiee! Mama help me!" Then faster, almost gasping for air, "Mamamamamama! It huuuuuurrts!" I hurried upstairs almost afraid I'd find him hanging from the drapes by his neck, barely able to inhale. (Vivid imagination, too.) What did I find? A small, pathetic and very angry four year-old holding one of his shins and sobbing. Upon sight of me, he wailed, "My bug bite huuuurts! Wahahaaaa". I rolled my eyes, turned on my heel, switched off the bedtime music CD and closed the door without a word. I know, harsh. Someone I know has the nickname "Hard-Hearted Hannah." *clears throat* The apple did not fall far... not that it could! (hee hee! Sorry, Ma.)
I cannot wait until the day he is old enough to understand so I can tell him that there was a time in his life when the meanest thing he thought he could ever say to me was that he would not be my Mama anymore. He is too young to understand the fact that he has the wording reversed and never was my Mama, anyway. Every time he says it I have to turn away. I'm sure he thinks I look away hurt or angry, but he doesn't realize that I'm near tears, stifling my laughter. If I thought he meant it, I might be hurt. But, he is just being "four". It is their way. I know this because I have two others who said the same things. They did not love me. They did not want me to be their mother. They would scream "I don't LIKE you!" and the list goes on. One thing none have been allowed to say to me or anyone else is "I hate you." We don't hate anyone. That is a very strong emotion and we have no right to exercise it on anyone. They don't have to like me. They don't have to agree. But they do have to mind. It is my responsibility to raise them to be good, kind, God-fearing men. That's a hard thing to do. I know if they never respect me, the rest will never come. If I never set limits, never enforce consequences, and never follow through, there will be no reason to trust me. Isn't that all any of us really want our kids to do? Trust me. You won't be the shortest kid in school forever. Trust me. You really are a likeable boy. Trust me, I will always come back to get you at the end of the day. For those trusts become "Mom, I made a mistake. I'm somewhere I shouldn't be and even though I know you'll probably be mad, can you please come and get me? I want to come home." They turn into "Mom, I don't know what to do with my life and I'm afraid to fail." They become "Mom, I think I met the girl of my dreams and I want to treat her well. What do I do?" Huge job. A little scary, yet I lift my eyes to heaven and whisper a prayer of thanksgiving, honored that God gave even me not one, but three opportunities to contribute fine young men to this world.
As I've sat here typing this, the screaming and stomping have ceased. He is no longer begging for his stuffed turtle, which he sacrificed to his cause when trying to meet my gaze. It lies in wait for him tomorrow morning when he makes his way down the stairway to go to school. He will likely notice him there and remind me that he hurled Turtle down the stairs because I would not let him have a cookie. I will agree that I remember that he did, and will ask him if he thought it was the right thing to do. He will probably say that it was not. Then I will query further, "what do you think you should say now?" and he will, as he has in the past, tell me that he is "sorry for being mean to me" and that when we get home after school he will eat all of his supper so that he may have a cookie.
My ignore switch, like the back porch light, has disengaged now. I know the noise has stopped because the insults were all only a result of his exhaustion and it's likely he's cried himself to sleep. In a moment, I will put the kettle on and before settling in, will peek in on the boy to make sure, juuust in case, that he has not decided to end it all over one cookie. When I do, I will "crawl across the floor, look up over the side of his bed, and if that little [four year-old] boy is really asleep, I'll pick him up and rock him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. As I rock him I'll sing 'I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be" (Love You, Forever by Robert Munsch).
Thank you, God, for my three wonderful sons. Thank you, God, for the lessons they learn, sometimes the hard way. Thank you, God, for a quiet house...