Friday, May 22, 2009

The Green-Eyed Monster

The Green-Eyed Monster
Current mood: angsty
Category: Life
Our children are born with a clean slate. As infants, they've quite literally done *nothing* wrong. As parents, our brains are filled with wishes for nothing more than their happiness and success as human beings. As they mature into little people, and their unique personalities begin to shine, we marvel at the traits they've picked up from us as well as their individual idiosyncracies. Life is good.

I never bought into the "terrible two's." Luke was a happy, bouncy and inquisitive boy without being precocious or overly whiny. He was creative and spontaneous and delightful. Once he started school, he was too homesick and frazzled to cause any trouble, and his amazing intelligence was no longer just our wishful thinking; we had tangible proof of his wisdom, wit and ability.

Our divorce has been difficult for Luke, though he wasn't one to lash out as a result, not for the first two years of it. He did, however, retreat internally; he put on quite a bit of weight and preferred solitary company or that of a single friend rather than being a social butterfly. Still, nothing was so overt that we considered having him see a therapist beyond the one visit to a family counselor we arranged upon our separation.

These days, however, my well-mannered, soft-tempered 9-year old little boy has become a green-eyed monster. Not the jealous kind, mind you. The snippy kind. The disrespectful kind. The harshly verbal hostile kind. And it has not been pleasant, ya'll.

My parenting style with Luke has been historically offbeat. My son and I have shared a dynamic that is so far from the norm that it's grown almost impossible for my peers to understand or with which to agree. My approach is firm and consequently, I'm frequently the bad guy in our negative interactions. I get a lot of "I hate you. I want Daddy. Daddy's nicer than you are. I want to live with Daddy instead! Grrrr!" My ex-husband and I share equal custody of Luke, though I'm the "custodial parent," so Luke is with me what amounts to one extra day of the week. Lately, he and I both have been looking forward to our mutual "off-time," when he goes by Daddy and I get some freaking adult alone time.

It just seems like normal problems that might plague him are, as of late, amplified into major life catastrophies, i.e. being unable to finish a Lego set, or losing a ball, or, gasp, reaching across about 2 feet to plug in his XBox controller charger. His temper flares, and he rants into an inconsolable wreck of emotion, though I'm handling it as best as my offbeat, alterna-self can. To my credit, at least nowadays, I'm approaching parenting from a sober perspective, which may be why his trials and tribulations seem to hurt ME more. They're no longer being numbed and overlooked. Not only is my son learning that life is difficult; I'm also discovering that for the first time in many years.

To date, I've never been an advocate of spanking as a way to avert a crisis or a misbehavior, despite my mother's insistance (and that of friends who've spanked) that sometimes what a kid really needs is a swift slap to the behind. I prefer reasoning his misbehavior and frequently, it appeals to his genius-level intellect, in a way other parents just can't relate to their 9-year olds. I walked into parenting vowing never to spank my son. Well, last night I did. His out-of-control outburst and it's requisite disrespect of me finally tested my last nerve beyond reasoning. All of the snippiness, the backtalk, the whiny shitheadedness resulted in a definite slap on the hind end, for which I felt guilty for, well, about 5 minutes. I talked to a couple friends with same-aged children right away and explained the situation, for which I received tentative approval considering the situation. Luckily, for both Luke and I, this happened only about 1/2 hour before his father was to pick him up for the long weekend. So once Craig arrived, I brought him up to speed on the issue and emphasized that my reaction was warranted and that Luke should henceforth lose privileges at Craig's at some time during the weekend, since I would be unable to exact any further punishment during the weekend. They both left, and I breathed an enormous sigh of relief, which I don't necessarily feel good about. I was actually glad I wouldn't see Luke until Tuesday.

I love my son fiercely, and still wish for him to be a well-adjusted, good manly man and not a whining pansy. Tonight at band, I ran into Luke's teacher for next year, who asked me if Luke is looking forward to the 4th grade. I told her, only half jokingly, that he was either heading into 4th grade or a tough ass military academy. The jury's still out.

There was a song that came out, I think, while I was pregnant or Luke was tiny, I can't recall, but it was by Elton John and it was called "Blessed." I am so blessed to have my child, and I realize that this trying time for us both will eventually pass. We just have to weather these storms with God's grace and both learn to cope in a healthier manner. Wish us luck.


by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Hey you, you're a child in my head
You haven't walked yet
Your first words have yet to be said
But I swear you'll be blessed

I know you're still just a dream
your eyes might be green
Or the bluest that I've ever seen
Anyway you'll be blessed

And you, you'll be blessed
You'll have the best
I promise you that
I'll pick a star from the sky
Pull your name from a hat
I promise you that, promise you that, promise you that
You'll be blessed

I need you before I'm too old
To have and to hold
To walk with you and watch you grow
And know that you're blessed