Monday, August 13, 2007

In Living Color

This morning as I was watching Joe-Henry in swimming lessons floating on his bright yellow floating noodle, I thought "I have to blog about this. About how yellow is his favorite color, and he's so positive and keeps trying and doesn't feel the least bit bad about being the only one in class that needs an assist from the teacher. I'll start with the bright yellow noodle."

It's true - he is my inspiration, and yesterday when I was huffing and puffing on my bike, I'd put my head down and think "be like Joe-Henry! Don't feel bad about being last, feel great about doing your best! Think YELLOW!", and it got me up the hill. And I do admire the way he tries and tries and keeps trying and honestly never feels bad if he's not first at something. He's always cheering for the other kids, confident in his own stellar self. I feel so proud of him for being exactly who he is.

But then we had the rest of the day, and I'm finding the need to blog about (cue scary organ music)... the other colors in our palette. He's venturing further afield these days, and when he gets close to me, he just has to test the strength of every tie we have. I'm at a loss. Joe-Henry, once the easiest going kid on the planet, is going through something huge, and I feel as though I'm the last person to be able to get him through it. He's going from little kid to slightly bigger kid, and the ways he chooses to navigate it are driving me nuts.

First there's the baby talk. When I tell him not to, he'll say, "it's not baby talk mom, I'm just small and furry". When I ask him why, he says "because I love you!" or "I just am!" He talks in a normal voice to his dad, who seems unfazed by it, possibly because he doesn't get it as often as I do, but it's makes me want to run shrieking from the room.

Then there's this behavior he'll pull when we're with other people. Today he had a playdate, and he would deliberately act out or do something he's not supposed to do, or if I told him not to, he'd do it anyway. It's full on brat behavior, and it completely takes me by surprise. I guess it shouldn't - he's precocious as all get out. I need to be better at follow through, but I'm inevitably thinking of the guest, not wanting to make them uncomfortable, but at the same time, I don't want to wait until they're gone to acknowledge his behavior. For recovering Lutherans, confrontations in public are about as uncomfortable as getting caught naked in public.

The third thing that has me on the brink is his desire for stuff. We can't go to the store without him begging and pleading to get something. The other day he said "I want to go to Grandma and Grandpas! They love me because they buy me stuff and you don't!" I have a difficult time with this. I don't want to take away my in-laws enjoyment - they love to get him goodies - and I believe it's their right to spoil him. But it's at a point where it's not in his best interest and is making him unpleasant to be around. I know it's something he'll grow out of (at least, God, I hope so), and I know he doesn't REALLY think I don't love him, but I don't want him to grow up thinking that "stuff" will make him happy.

We'll figure it all out, and we'll get to the other side of this growth period where everything seems precarious and fraught with the possibility of a tantrum. And he'll return to me, my sweet child, older and wiser and full of love and sweetness. And I'll be a better mom tomorrow than I was today because he's making me take my game to the next level. It is what it is, and I wouldn't ask for anything else.

So the blog that started out to be about yellow, turned out to be about more than one color. That's parenting for you - it's nothing if not colorful.


Donna said...

Congratulations, Mrs. McQ, it's a normal boy! ;0) Kind of annoying when that sweetness and light turns all twisty and dark, even for just a moment or two. I for one would give anything if my almost 8-year-old could "think yellow" for just a bit. He wants to do everything perfect, always wants to win, and falls to pieces when it doesn't happen. Drives the Mighty Hunter N.U.T.S.! MH can't the thought of him being teased for crying (which amazingly did not happen during our first and often frustrating season of coach-pitch baseball).

You've got the right perspective on the situation. It's likely not permanent. He's just exploring and testing his and your boundaries. Of course that does not make the day-to-day dealing with it one little bit easier.

I'm trying to figure out if obstinate has a color, because if it does, that's what it looks like around here!

Lolabola said...

Have you seen that vanilla shreddies commercial, where the kid refuses to eat until suddenly his older brother is eating them like they're the coolest thing ever?

The mom is sitting there saying "please eat your breakfast, you need to eat it" I think nicely and then rather firmly and she's almost pushed over the edge when he whips out his plastic dinosaur and says "but HE'S eating them".

I don't know how parents don't explode at this point.

It's so great you have so many colours. It's such a great example to read about. I love how balanced you seem when you write about the not-so-fun part.

Anonymous said...

I love that we are so connected - swear to god, go see the "birthday wish list" I just posted on my blog, that I did directly BEFORE coming here and reading this.

Yeah...pretty normal stuff. Sam (5 next month) sometimes pulls the baby talk still, but Bailey is right there with the greed and attitude. It's not quite as innocent as testing boundaries (which I see more with Sam and Lucy) but it's full on teenage attitude. Complete with rolling eyes, shrugging, and curling of the lips.

7 going on 17. Good thing I'm used to teenagers, so I have a much more relaxed attitude about it than Rich, who practically spontaneously combusts when Bailey pulls the 'tude on him.

And Bailey never had his yellow. But then, neither does his mother. Poor kid got screwed in the genetic pool.

English Garden said...

So Kate bit Sara's finger today, pushed her 20 month old friend Kevin, after I told her off she deliberatly did it again (even if it was soft), and I feel that "Time Outs just aren't working. Sometimes motherhood is hard but your great so you'll know you'll get through it. And.. what about an allowance, make Joe-Henry do some chores, earn a little mooh-la. Just a thought. Whenever we asked for something as kids my mum would say, "sure I'll just go to the money tree out back and then we can go to the store!!"

suttonhoo said...

you're such a mindful mother -- I love reading your stories. Joe-Henry's a lucky boy -- of course, it'll be another 25 years before he realizes *how* lucky. ;)

anniemcq said...

I love you all. Thanks for all the great words of encouragement and support, and for sharing your stories.

I, Rodius said...

I appreciate being able to read about other people's parenting trials, fears, and successes. Mrs. Rodius and I are right now so buried under parenting information and all of the ways we can permanently screw up our child, it's good to get a sense of longer term perspective.