Tuesday, December 5, 2006
"I want a new mommy!"
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. That is the sound I am making because I just got my child to bed. Do you make that sound too? I'm sure you do. In fact it's the reason I started this blog - because I know that out there, in homes as different from mine as can be, you are there having that moment too. And it helps me to know this. I think that when I first had my son, when he was a baby, and I had older, more experienced moms gently telling me that I would get through the sleepless nights, the confusion, the crazy hormones and leaky breasts, I had to take it on faith. Because I really wasn't sure anyone had ever been through it before. Sure, it must have happened, because there THEY were, survivors all, and there were THEIR children, whether they were a year or twenty older than my own, but still, how could their experience have been as remotely desperate, as unique as mine? Now granted, there was something to this - our first year was fraught with not only the first baby thing, but we had a child with a really rare syndrome and no one could (or can even now) tell us exactly how it does or might affect him. In addition to this, there were other, more common but still no fun health issues (hypospadius and rsv), so there were more than the usual new parent unknowns. It was chaos on top of anarchy on top of poopy diapers. But from about six months to a year, when things calmed down a bit (when I calmed down a bit), and there started to be a rhythm to our life with this squirmy, noisy new roommate or ours, I began to discover what a great source of comfort and wisdom other mothers were. I didn't have to agree with them, but knowing that they were there, and that they were going through a lot of the same things I was, it made the mountain I was climbing seem less rocky and more scenic. Today, if I'm feeling out of whack, or I'm facing a particularly tough parenting challenge, I'm on the phone to my mom friends. It's especially miraculous to have friends with kids the same age, because you can check in to find out if it's just a phase, or if your child is, indeed, going to be a serial killer/wallflower/trapeze artist/brain surgeon/defense attorney.
Here's what started my Ahhhhhhhh moment tonight. We had the best day today. I got a lot done, got a big portion of our dump of a basement cleaned out, while my boy played with his new mail truck that he earned by cleaning out two big bags of toys. He spent a good hour explaining to me the different ways that busses open their doors, then went on in great detail about doors on the max train and doors on mail trucks, etc. Sometimes it can make me want to stick a pencil in my ear, but today I cherished it. I loved that he wanted to tell me about it - I had patience for all of it, and enjoyed hearing about it. I tried to see him as I might if he weren't my son, and it weren't my monumental responsibility to feed him, keep him healthy, stimulated and happy, all the while tackling all the other five hundred things that always need to get done in a day. It worked - I was charmed by him, and thought he was terrifically smart and sweet and not at all a nagging interruption for my important grown up things. He played Max Train, calling out all the stops into the microphone we have in our basement, and then made the announcements in "Spanish". I use the quotation marks because sometimes it actually does sound like the Spanish announcements they make on the Max, and sometimes it sounds like a cross between French, Latin and Icelandic. Luckily when he is doing this my back is to him, and he can't see my smile. He hates it when I smile at his playing, because it's not playing to him, it's serious business and there is nothing remotely cute or funny about it.
ANYWAY, tonight we went to an event at his school, then we stopped for a burger on our way home. He asked if he could play with his new mail truck while he ate, and because my husband was working late, and I wanted to sit on the couch and read the paper while I ate, I said sure. But ONLY if he ate. If I had to remind him more than once, I would have to take the truck away until after dinner.
Well, of course it happened, because it always does. So I reminded him once, and warned him that if I had to do it again, I'd take the truck away until he finished. Well, when it actually happened, he couldn't believe that I was going to follow through (even though I always do). He got so angry with me, he told me I was a "buttonhead", which I believe is actually "butthead" but he heard it wrong at school, and I'm not going to correct him. So I looked him straight in the eye and said "Sweetie, I see you're angry, but calling me names just made things worse. Now the truck is mine until tomorrow." This made him furious, and he was doing his best not to cry while he made vicious fun of me for being, in his opinion, the "worst mommy EVER!". And this is what he said next. "I want a new mommy!" In the past, when he's travelled down that road, I've calmly asked him to tell me what he wanted his new mommy to be like, so I could write it down and we could give the list to his daddy. And every time, he would cry and wail "NOOOOOO! I don't want a new mommy! You're my mommy! I love YOU!" I always felt a little wicked doing it, but it seemed to turn things around. But this time, he walked over, made a snatching motion at my heart, and said "I'm taking all this love that daddy gave you and I'm going to give it to him and tell him to give it to my new mommy". Somehow, I managed not to laugh OR cry, both responses burbling just under my calm surface, and said "I don't think Daddy will take this love back. I've used it pretty well, and I think I get to keep it. But if you want, you can stay really mad for a while. I know sometimes that feeling just has to be there." He was running out of steam, but he went for one last flourish. "I'm not your son anymore!" To which I said as honestly and calmly as I could "Oh my love. You are always my son. Even when you don't want to be. You can't shake mama - I'm here forever."
And then, it was over. Poof. Just like that. Like we had been caught in a terrible downpour, but now it's done, and even if the sun wasn't out yet, we could see it shining just behind that cloud.
I was proud of myself for not losing my patience and yelling. That seems to be my default mode lately, and I'm working like crazy to change it. To be a better parent. Not perfect, but just better. Tonight I did it, and it felt really good. But if I hadn't, I'd still be here, having my "Ahhhhhhhhhh" moment. And feeling comforted by you, my fellow parent/warriors. We struggle mightily, sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed. But through it all, we are always, always parents. Onward.