April 16, 2014

We Don’t Need You, Mom!

It was 6:30AM.  My ten year old Mack was banging around in the kitchen, on the other side of my bedroom wall.  It’s always a little scary to hear him banging around so loudly because I can picture him getting very intense.  And when he gets intense, he quits thinking as rationally.  But I’ve learned to let him be, because he will let me know if there’s a problem very quickly.  His louds are the loudest.  His panic is the highest.  I will know, I tell myself.  I start getting out of bed and round the corner as he louds me…  “Mom, go back to bed!  You have to go!” 


So those are the moments I have to calm myself down.  He has trouble explaining in that moment what he needs.  He just knows that he feels strongly that I should be doing something he wants me to do.  But it is more difficult for him to understand why I would question that or why he shouldn’t yell.  So I have to remind myself of all these things before I respond. 


“Honey, what are you doing?” 




He tries to calm himself down, but he is having trouble. He can see the look on my face, telling him I am not doing well with the louding in my face.  He takes my hand and walks me back to my bedroom and asks me to go back to bed.  In my head, the clock is ticking.  And I have to get ready and get these boys to school.  I am struggling with how to tell him I can’t go back to bed.  So I settle on firm and kind


“Mack, we have to get up and get ready for school.  I am sorry, but that’s my job to make sure we get out on time, so we will have to finish what you are doing another day, when it is more appropriate.”


And then he yells out, “I am making breakfast for you!!!”


I sit down on the bed.  “Sorry, bud, I feel really bad now.”


“Don’t worry, Mom.  I understand, but I wanted it to be a surprise.”


“Well, it’s definitely a surprise.”


“Mom, you work too hard, so I want you to watch a show and eat breakfast in bed while we get ready.  We are going to show you we can get ready on our own.”


“OK.  Let’s give it a shot!”  Of course, this goes against any mom’s grain to lie back, watch a television show, and listen to banging pots and pans in the other room.  But this was kind of amazing.  No one has ever taken the time to handle me this way.  I felt loved and understood and humbled.  I knew he felt it was too stressful to have me out there barking out directions all morning.  But he is always stressed.  It’s his innate state of being.  I can’t change that.  But maybe I could learn something here.  I was going to trust his problem solving.  I was going to be ready to see how wrong I was, not thinking they could get ready without me.  I was just going to allow this to happen…  And I was going to bask in amazement—again—at the way Mack always takes life to the next level, at such a young age, and then acts so young again. 


I am always in awe of his strength, ingenuity, immaturity and incredible maturity.  It’s confusing and amazing and wonderful.  I often find myself weighing the lesson I think I need to teach against his process.  And I won’t get it right all the time, but I hope sometimes I do.  There is no greater pleasure than seeing your children be amazing.


I had my lovely breakfast, coffee and watched an old episode of Frasier.  I felt relaxed and heard the kids chatting.  Mack says, “Isn’t it nice mom isn’t out here this morning?”  He was gleeful and strong and grown up.  He loves feeling that way.  Nice, I thought.  Little shit thinks I’m a nuisance!  But I get it.  Moms are annoying with all their, “We have ten minutes!  Did you brush your teeth?  Why is your laundry all over the floor?  Did someone take the dragon, I mean, dog, for a walk?  Why the hell is the toothpaste in the toilet?”  You know how it goes. 


And then Zoom says, “No, it’s not better without mom!”  Ok, so he’s my favorite, for like all month.  They don’t need to know I heard or that I have favorites, but I will be buying everything on his Amazon wishlist today.  I will shower him with kisses and laughter and praise.  But I won’t tell him he’s my favorite, not outwardly…  Or maybe I’ll just tell them!  “Zoom is my favorite because he likes me to nag.  That’s really the most important quality in a child, so he’s my favorite.   But you are a really good cook, Mack.  That’s something.  Not everything, but something.”


Okay, I didn’t say it, but I did entertain myself with this knowledge and how I could pretend to play it out


The kids got ready for school.  We were ready on time, (yah right) but pretty close anyway.  I didn’t walk into the kitchen.  I didn’t do anything but get myself ready and then come in at the last minute to let them know we were leaving.  And there were a few loose ends to tie up.  And we were a few minutes late leaving, like 7, to be precise.  But not so bad.  I walked down to the car by myself.  They were both eager!  How’d we do?  I told them they did a good job.  They weren’t ready on time, nor was everything done, but they did a good job.  But they did show me they were capable of doing a lot.  “We’ll work on it,” I said.  “And I will step away more.”


When I walked back into the house after dropping them at school, I saw an hour of work before me, cleaning up the food left out, the pans, the dishes not put away, the general chaos. But I felt happy that Mack had done things differently that morning.  I felt grateful that my kids were innovative, and could cook.  Well, Mack can cook.  And I felt happy that maybe as life goes on, they will continue to be able to tell me when they think they need more freedom, more space.  I felt grateful that I was able to give them space that morning and try to hear what they were telling me and understand what they were truly capable of.  I was grateful that I was a mom, and that my kids were pretty freaking awesome. 


I wrote Mack a thank you note and taped it above his bed.  I thanked him for a lot of things.  And I can’t remember it all.  But he said he would keep it forever.  I must have said something nice, right?  And me, I’ll remember the day forever.  I’ll remember how he handled me with such love, while trying to communicate what he needed.  I really don’t know many grown-ups who do that.  That’s more than I could hope for him to become today at ten years old.  I am so proud.  And even though he obviously can’t be my favorite for a very long time, I am grateful once again to have him as a son, a pupil, and a teacher. 


I love you, my favorite son, and my second favorite son.