Yesterday my son showed me a sentence he had typed out for me on the computer: “Momi I rele luv yu.” I think he was trying to make reparations for a barb he sliced me with two days before:
I wish you weren’t my mom.
At the time, I passed it off as though I heard that sort of thing before, every day even. I responded, nonchalantly, “Well that’s sad, but know that I always want you to be my son.” I wanted to add “and don’t worry, I know you don’t mean it.” But I was afraid that it’d only make him come back hotter.
So, I let it go, and we proceeded to have a monstrous back and forth that ended with him not eating dinner and going to bed angry. It all started when he didn’t like the food he saw on the table.
Six. Going on Sixteen.
I’m growing to expect this kind of behavior on the first day of school, and I think I’ve heard kid-therapists say that it’s a good sign. Little ones have to tow the line all day long in a new environment after a comparatively carefree summer, so when they finally get home — if home if a safe place for such unfortunate tantrums — you’re gonna get it. They’ll to rip into you like they’re teenagers while you (if you can) keep calm and keep adulting.
After he destroyed my room, I wanted to kick him out. But I let him stay and apologized for my side of things. I’m no saint, but I’ve learned the art of apologizing to kids. His words didn’t truly hurt until the fourth or fifth memory of his saying them. He had stumbled over the words a bit, which belied his confident tone.
He had clearly borrowed the words from someone else to try on. And yet, they worked. It stung. I got burned by my six-going-on-sixteen-year-old.
I had always imagined that when this day came I would do better than the moms I saw who got legit pricked by teens learning to throw darts. They should be tougher, I thought. They should know that kids are salty, but because they are just testing, experimenting, and finding their angry voice. These moms would do well to keep their distance, I thought. They need to maintain perspective instead of allowing themselves to get poisoned by the smattering of starter venom their baby-vipers manage to secrete.
But not wanting me to be his mother? This kid had swept the leg the first time he got in the ring. We’d fought before, about bedtime or tooth-brushing, but he made this one personal.
I admit, I thought I had dodged a bullet with boys. It turns out that boys cut, too.
Making it Right
It was up to me to get into repair mode the next day. I needed to show him that he could not push me away so easily. It took two days, but I managed to repeat my line about being happy that I am his mother. I also reassured him that I love him even when I am mad at him. The same amount, in fact.
I don’t love you less when you behave badly, and I don’t love you more when you behave nicely. It doesn’t work that way in good families. It’s normal for people who love each other to get mad and fight, but it’s equally normal for them to love each other at the same time.
You can lose or win my respect, kid, but you can’t lose or win my love. That’s the deal, as messy as it is.
What’s your best reaction when your kid intentionally tries to cut you?