I Give Myself Very Good Advice.....

Speaking of being over-protective:

My son came walking across the bridge the other day exactly when I'd asked him to so that we could get out the door for an appointment.  I shouted down from the deck that it was time to go and he should get a clean shirt on, and when he looked up at me I saw that he was almost but not quite crying.

He came upstairs and we sat down together and I asked what was wrong.  He said that Older Liam had called him 'kid who plays with Barbies' in front of all the older kids.  And then the tears came a'pouring down.

Older Liam lives across the street.  Older Liam used to come over for sleepovers and dinners last year, but then he hit grade 4 or 5 or whatever he's in and decided it was high time to become an asshole.  He doesn't come over anymore.  One of his little thugsta' friends lives in our neighborhood and so he's around occasionally, riding his skateboard with all of our neighbor kids.  He's a jerk, but a harmless jerk, and I don't worry about him too much because he knows that I have his mom's digits, so if I tell him to knock it off already, he usually listens.

He does, however, like to pick at my 2of3.  Most thugsta's do.  He's kind of easy pickings.

I have countless times had the talk with 2of3 about how some people have brown clouds around them (not to be confused with brain clouds, which are incurable except by long rides at sea on luggage and sex with Meg Ryan) and some people have rays of sunlight around them, and the people with brown clouds like to block out the sunshine, so it's best to just keep your sunshine as far away from them as you can.  I have countless times told him that the only way he's going to get Older Liam to get off his back is to stop caring, that when he reacts, he makes Older Liam act more.  I've explained to him a bazillion times that people who call names do so because they don't have any better weapons in their arsenal, and that smart people have much better ones, like intelligence.  Like the ability to laugh at stupidity and walk away from it.  Like the ability to look over their shoulder and say, "It must really suck to be so obtuse" and then go somewhere else.  Because god knows, the nany-nany-boo-boo kids have no fucking clue what Obtuse means and the most fun way to stop an asshole in his tracks is to make him think for a second.

I'd much rather have an intellectual snob for a kid than a bully.  Personal preference.

I decided when I saw 2of3 crying for the upteenth time over something Older Liam did that it was time for me to stop coaching and start fixing.  So I got my shoes on and off we went.

I always bring him with me when I have to put out his fires.  When he got mugged at the bus stop and the school did nothing to fix it, I let him stand right next to me when I found the kids who did it and scared them so bad one almost peed in his pants and the rest started out all, "Whatever, bitch" and ended up all, "Sorry, ma'am" because I want him to see that I will protect him, and I want him to see how to stand up to a jerk.  Because god knows, no one ever showed me how to do it.  So he and I started walking across the bridge together to go find Older Liam and Let. Him. Have. It. when I paused for just a second, thought really hard about what I was about to do, and for whom, and then asked him, "Dude, how about you tell me the whole story before I go do this."

He swore he had.

I glared at him.

He said No, really.

I said he better start in with the whole truth.

He sighed and said okay.

And then he told me his whole story about how some little "chubby" girl was riding her bike and Older Liam was making fun of her because she was wobbling on it and that he told Older Liam to stop teasing her and then Older Liam told him to shut up, kid who plays with Barbies, right in front of everyone.

Fair enough; time to put and end to this once and for-all.  After much ado we found Older Liam across the street at the tennis courts with, you guessed it, Kid Who Mugged 2of3 Last Year.  That explains a lot.  So I call Older Liam over and he came over and I said, "Dude, you see that neighborhood right there (points to mine)?  2of3 lives there, you don't.  You cannot come into his neighborhood and call him names and make him cry.  Go find somewhere else to play from now on."  And he starts in with the whole But he's and the I didn't's and I put my hand up and said, "Stop.  I know what happened and you're not talking your way out of this one.  This is our home.  You can't play here anymore." And then he said, "But he chased me with a skateboard."

Enter the slow, painful glare of death towards my son.

You. Did. What?

No I didn't, mawwwwwm!  Yes you did, 2of3!  Nah uh!  Uh huh!

And then Older Liam told me his whole story.  That he'd been teasing the chubby girl on her bike and 2of3 told him to stop and he told him to shut up, kid who plays with barbies and then 2of3 came at him.  With a skateboard.

Enter blue-screened, Matrix style head explosion.

And that's when I let 2of3 have it. Right in front of Older Liam, right in front of Kid Who Mugged Him at the Bus Stop, right in front of every neighborhood kid, because god knows they'd all gathered around to watch the mom get all up in the thugsta's grill.  I may or may not have rather loudly informed him that I didn't appreciate being made to look like a asshole in a public forum, I may or may not have reminded him that dirty little self-serving liars get grounded until they go to military camp, I may or may not have had my finest parenting moment ever in front of a suburban tennis court.

I may or may not have over reacted slightly.

The other kids from our neighborhood chimed in that, in fact, Older Liam had initiated the whole thing and that he's always mean to 2of3 and that he totally had it coming.  They backed their little dirty liar of a buddy up and said that Older Liam was the instigator, and that 2of3 was just standing up for himself the best he could.  I don't think they much like Older Liam.  So I turned back to Older Liam and said that I was sorry, that I thought I'd had the whole story, but that now that I do my argument still stands, that he just can't get along with 2of3 and since 2of3 lives here and he doesn't, he needed to find somewhere else to play from now on.  He said okay with a very, very demonstrative eye roll.

And for the better part of the rest of this week, I am on possession of one shiny Nintendo DS that my kid can't so much as breath on.  And I'm thinking it's high time I start following my own advice and letting him sink or swim all by himself.

What Rough Beast, Its Hour Come 'Round At Last...

A few people commented yesterday about the lying and how they thought it was worrisome*.  I, naturally, read those comments and nodded my head in agreement, but that idea had stuck with me all day today, tugging at my sleeve, and I'm not entirely sure why.  But I kept thinking about it, and I've come to one conclusion: I'm not worried about it.  In fact, I think I'd be worried if it wasn't happening.

I was at the park the other day with my neighbor and her kids.  She has a 2 year old and a newborn, both *just* their ages.  (Vile betrayer aside: My uterus lept out of my abdomen and made a grab for that newborn.  Stop it, bitch; we've talked about this.  You had your turn.)  Her 2 year old is the poster child for children.  He's the kid you dream about having.  There seriously isn't a better kid anywhere, and I'm totally comparing him against my own.  And, of course, he's two now, so he's suddenly becoming less that desirable company all the time.  At least insofar as she tells it.  I've never seen anything but halos and rainbows coming out of that boy.  Anyway, she was lamenting the passing of "the good kid".  She was telling me about his tantrums and his obstinence and how sad she was about it.  I, of course, was offering her an assload of advice she hadn't asked for instead of really listening, until she said this:

"I just miss how he was.  He was so perfect."

That, I heard.  That, I've said a million times myself.  THAT I actually knew the response to.  Which was this:

"Dude, he is perfect.  He's supposed to be doing this.  He's perfectly two, you know?  He HAS to do this."

And I firmly believe that.  I don't pretend to actually know anything about child-development, but what I've observed over the past decade plus is that kids have to test their relationships with us at pretty precise phases of their lives.  Two is the first one.  Three comes next, and it's just like two but with painfully great vocabulary.  Then there's the school-aged pull-away, and that one's gentler.  They need to do this to gain a sense of who they are and how they're going to relate to the world around them.  They have to separate from us slowly, in phases, and it's got to be hard and confusing at every phase.  OF COURSE they make us suffer.

We take it for granted that they'll walk at this age and talk at this age and cut teeth at this age and potty train at this age.  We stalk those statistics.  We compare them with other kids.  We talk to the doctor about them.  We totally ignore the fact that the attitude is part of that package, and I think it's a pretty damn important part.  It's not what they're doing, it's who they're becoming.

Granted, my kid isn't quite 11 yet, which may seem young to be hitting this next phase, but the sad truth is that he's right on target.  Like it or not, this puberty thing starts a hell of a lot earlier than it did for us.  (You'll thank me later aside: Bookmark that link.  You're going to need it someday.  It's the best resource I've ever found for kids on puberty.) He may not have the armpit hair just yet for his troubles, but good lord you should smell him.  He's been slouching towards puberty for several years now.  OF COURSE he's lying to me.

He's trying to find his own footing in the world right now.  He doesn't tell me how his day was anymore, he doesn't ask for my help with his homework anymore, I have to force a 5 second cuddle out of him at night, and he's got a PhD in eyerolling.  I am no longer cool.  AT ALL.  I am no longer funny or pretty or smart.  I am his mawwwwwm.  I am something he doesn't really want a whole lot to do with anymore.  Sure, he still seeks me out in the crowd at his basketball games, but god help me if I wave to him.  Sure, he still wants me to help out in his classroom, but only while he's at gym class.  He wants to know I'm around, he just doesn't actually want to see me.  And I have no doubt that he wasn't *this* much glad I'd busted him, for two reasons.  One: He had proof that I was looking.  Which means I care.  No matter how annoying that is for him, just like at his games.  Two: I got the message loud and clear that he's interested in moving on to the next level, the one where he can take over some of the choices I'm still holding on to for him, and he didn't have to talk to me about it.

Does it make any sense at all?  Hell no.  Does any adolescent child make any sense at all?  Hell no.  When I was barking right down his throat, I asked him, "Do you think your father and I were your age so very long ago that we can't remember doing this same sort of thing?"  And then I realized that no, we weren't his age so very long ago that we can't remember doing this stuff.  I totally remember doing this stuff, the little lies, the small deceptions.  It was important to me, to my self esteem, to my image of myself to be able to pull off the small victories.  I needed to carve my own path, you know, and so does he.

So maybe it's time to loosen the leash a notch or two.  Maybe he's ready for the next step, whether or not I am.  I wasn't ready for him to walk, either, but he sure had to do that.  All I've hoped for with these kids is that they'll grow up to be humble, to be kind, to be sensible and to be their own men.  I don't want them to be "my sons" forever, I want them to go into the world and do something, be something, of their own making.  I want to be the foundation of their lives, not the walls.  And that's beginning, my role is starting to shift.  Just so long as he knows that I know, and that I'm watching however silently, I think we'll get through this phase just fine, as well.  That, and a parental controls blocker set to DefCon 5.

Because really?  I see porn on my laptop once, and someone goes to military school.

*You gals don't mind that I'm replying to you comments with another post do you?  I sure hope not.