"You're the best mom in the world, Mom! I love you!" My son likes to shout this at me when I'm dropping him off for school. And while it's nice to get this public shout-out, I am taking it with a big spoonful of Reality Salts.
This "Best Mom" title, award, whatever it is that he bestows on me (his opinion, really), doesn't come with any perks. Not even a swag bag of Kleenex and hand sanitizer. But it does make a few things better, I suppose.
The last week could be described as "Grumpy Week; phase one" and we are currently now moving into "Grumpy Week 2, phase 2". What started last Monday with a sleepless night staying awake to ward off nightmares had, by Wednesday, morphed into "I can do nothing alone, mother dear; your ever-present presence is needed". We tried melatonin for a short time,which helped him relax enough to get to sleep without fuss, but then had him waking up at 5:45. (bleecch!) We have tried having his toy animals guard his room, but apparently they are less 'real' than the imaginary monsters my son has conjured up, so we moved onto the more effective "monster repellent" of lavender oil and a strict discipline of only cozy, happy books at bedtime.
The harder part of all of this is that he really doesn't want to be alone. EVER. So, for most of last week I had a little shadow sewn onto my heels, regardless of where I am or what I'm doing. Where, just a week ago he'd be off playing LEGOs quietly for 45 minutes, I now have a kid who wants to keep me in his sightlines all the time. Even when he needs to take care of more personal, ahem, tasks.
"Moooo-ooom! I need you in the bathroom with me!"
In my head: Oh, no. No, you don't.
In my head: Do I have to?
In my head: Boy, you owe me, Buster.
I have decided to try to think of this as an opportunity for empathy. For every time I have dragged him to the grocery store when he would have rather stayed home and played.... I am sure he thought the same thing: Do I have to? Yes, darling, you do have to, because even though you think food is not important right now while you are building a whole new world out of little pieces of paper, later on you will change your mind and question my judgement when we have nothing for dinner. Or your father will later question my ability to parent if I do let you have your way because I'm supposed to know better and make the hard choices even if there's a good chance you are going to turn into Grumplestiltskin when I say "we need to go to the store".
He knows he is asking me to do something that he seems to need me to do, that I don't want to do, and so I am trying to be gracious about this, despite how exhausting Always Being In Company is. Trying to figure out how much connection he is needing....When all of a sudden we add in Phase Two, which shall be known by the two most-shouted words in our house of late:
"THAT'S STUPID!" That being anything that is not working how he wants it to. It started Sunday night. I thought I was actually going to get to watch my one (ONE, folks, ONE) afternoon of trashy television a year-- the one evening of grown-up tv I watch in front of him, the Golden Globes. I'm a huge fan of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and my girls are hosting, so I just have to watch, right?
Wrong. By the time we are halfway through the red carpet coverage, Kiddo's re-experiencing one of his major life disappointments: The toys you win with arcade tickets are junk. Kiddo and Joe had gone to the arcade earlier that day for a couple hours of fun. Let me just say that those two hours of fun for Kiddo and my dear husband ended up in three hours of subsequent meltdown for me. (or, as we say in retrospect: That's what I get for going to have a beer in the afternoon with a girlfriend. Pshaw.) The little disc gun, similar to the crappy one he's won before, didn't work to his liking. After several positive parenting attempts and confounded fixes, the disc gun had to take a Time-Out in the cupboard for a while. "Silly thing, it's just making too much trouble! It needs to take a break!" That's right, I blamed it on the toy, not my frazzled nerves.
When I next turned on the Golden Globes that evening, it was the last three minutes of the show and the ladies were waving goodnight to one and all. sigh.
Yesterday, well, as the old song goes- Second Verse, same as the first..... "This is STUPID!". Even through several efforts to provide connecting times, empathy and support, I was waiting for seven o'clock and bedtime to roll around with eager anticipation while practicing being patient and accepting his anger and feelings without judgment. In the future I may refer to this attitude as 'trying to channel Yoda'.
Today, the Best Mom in the World (ha!) is trying to conjure up an afternoon of play ideas which are more facile, open-ended, less-challenging. I've got my evening scheduled to include getting the veggies prepped to roast early and then letting him take a long bath before dinner, when he's most tetchy. Water play in the tub can't become that fraught.... or can it? We'll also have some playdough ready to go after homework is done, or try something else that's fun and easy. I'll make sure we have a good snuggle/storytime today, and carve out twenty minutes for at least one game or playtime of his choice.
I've tried my reflective listening, my compassionate, empathetic restatement of his feelings, counting to 100, employed gentle delay tactics for when he wants me and I am doing something integral to our survival as a family-- like making a meal, and have had my sleep interrupted more times than my sanity usually allows.
And I keep it in the front of my head as we are traveling through this phase: He is a good kid. He is just needing something and I need to keep on being a detective, listening when he talks, and try to figure out how to best meet his needs and still keep myself healthy and focused and together. I don't think these ideas are mutually exclusive, I just haven't figured out how to find the bridge there yet, that linchpin which will keep us connected but flexible with each other. I'll offer to let him help in the kitchen for tonight, washing and peeling veggies, which he likes doing. And I'll keep in mind that this, too, shall pass and something else will come along like a bowling ball and knock my feet out from under me for a time.
Parenting books contain a lot of wonderful words for parenting: fulfilling, best-and-hardest job ever, abundant sense of love, life-changing.... I think we need to add another word to that collection~
Relentless. Being a parent is the most relentless thing I have ever done, have ever had the good fortune to get to do. Parenting is all the good things, and the hard things, and it is most certainly relentless, always coming at you. We are forced to make the quiet places in our mind, because sometimes we just don't get them elsewhere. It is relentless, but there is also nothing inherently wrong with Kiddo, so I rise to the occasion. Today I will practice a lot of acceptance, find my inner Yoda, and hope for a good afternoon.
And maybe, just maybe, the Best Mom in The World (to live in my house, that is) might just pull it off. We'll just have to wait and see. Guess we'll know come 7 pm, huh?
In case you want an epilogue: well, most of my plans worked, except the stuff I have no control over.... and knowing I had no control over led me to NOT try to control, but to consider... overall, not a bad day!