Someday We’ll Look Back & Laugh. Or Not.

Things got a little hairy on the mothering front last night because it was Report Card Day.  There was a difference of opinion between Noah and me about what constitutes a “good report card” and I ended up locking him out of the house.  Yes indeed.  In a move of deep maternal wisdom, after he stormed out the front door and slammed it behind him, my hand went right for the lock and clicked it shut.  “That kid is not getting back into this house,” I thought.  A well-thought-out parenting strategy if ever there was one.

Then, in the grip of insane rage, I went downstairs and locked the back door too.  And then went back upstairs to make dinner.  At one point I saw him move quickly past the kitchen window, trying to see if there was anyone besides me near the door, probably.  As it got dark, bad thoughts started to come into my head: “What if he snuck in through the downstairs window?”  “What if he went to the convenience store on the highway and gets picked up by a sexual predator?”  “What if he doesn’t come back?” 

Eventually I had to do some stealth reconnaissance around the house because I couldn’t admit that I had locked him out and now didn’t know where he was.  Things just don’t work that way around here.  Jacob knew what was going on, but with the well-honed survival skills of a middle child, he was moving very slowly and quietly, most likely with a house key taped to his underwear and wondering how to stockpile money under his bed.  

I found Noah in the family room with Gabe watching SpongeBob.  My first thought was, “How the hell did you get back in here?” but that seemed like a negative conversation starter so I just stood there looking at him.  He avoided eye contact, but as I was standing between him and the television, he had to recognize my presence in some way. 

“There’s something unsavory between me and the TV,” he said, with a very tentative smile.

“I think that’s your feet,” I said. 

And then it was better.  Then we could talk.  We talked about the report card, our different perspectives, our reactions.  It wasn’t perfect but it was better.  “Did you try to SNEAK back into the house?” I asked.  “I tried to pick the back lock with a piece of wire, but it didn’t work.  Jacob let me in.” 

For anyone who has small children and wonders if things ever get easier, the answer is, “No.”  No, I’m afraid not.  For anyone who cannot imagine their tiny adorable offspring making them so angry that they want to push them down the stairs, get back to me when they have a high school diploma in their hands.  Or better yet, don’t, because if your parenting life is a bed of roses, I would REALLY rather not know about it.

The screaming and the drama are such a drag.  And the anger.  It feels so isolating, and the only thing that made me not turn either myself or my first-born son in to DCFS after another argument this morning was talking to a friend who shared her own ugly, raw, funny and true parenting stories with me.  “Girl, you are not alone,” she kept saying, and because I know her, and I know her kids, and I know they love each other, things felt so much easier.

After the door-locking situation was over last night, I was brushing my teeth to the sound of the 4-year old wailing in his bed, “I’m ALONE!  I want someone!  I’m ALONE!”  He wouldn’t say, “Mama!  I want you!” like he usually does if he wants me to come in, because a few minutes earlier, I had told him no, I would not go through the house AGAIN looking for the Easter egg with the rubber bug in it that he has hidden God knows where.  So he was angry, over tired, and probably stressed from all the prior yelling. 

He was listening to me brushing my teeth, and I was listening to him sobbing.  Part of me was heartbroken, another part laughing, and another part barely paying attention because I knew that in 30 seconds he would start calling me.  And sure enough, “MAMA!  COME IN!”  So I went in, sat on his bed, and he turned his back to me and said, “I want to be alone!”

“Oh, you have so got to be kidding me,” I thought.  “No, I don’t think so.  We are NOT doing the Drama Queen routine in here.”  I laid down on his bed, and like a 40 pound magnet he flipped over and laid his legs on top of me.  He told me that he felt sad, and we talked about that for a little while, he asked me to go look for his egg 10 more times and 10 more times I said no, we would look for it tomorrow.  We said how we still love each other even when we’re angry.

It was a horrible evening.  And then it was this morning.  And a new argument, and another chance for redemption.  Peter Ustinov said, “Love is an act of endless forgiveness.”  It certainly feels that way.  Noah is outside washing my car, Gabe is sleeping, I am writing this down, and later my friends and I will sit together and remind each other that we are not alone.   Thank God.

Sweetness

Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear
   one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
   has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it,
   for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving

someone or something, the world shrunk
   to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
   that doesn’t leave a stain,
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet. …

Tonight a friend called to say his lover
   was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low

and guttural, he repeated what he needed
   to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief

until we were speaking only in tones.
   Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
   then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don’t care

where it’s been, or what bitter road
   it’s traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.

Stephen Dunn, from New and Selected Poems 1974-1994

the Bittersweet Vine

12 Comments

Filed under parenting, poetry

12 responses to “Someday We’ll Look Back & Laugh. Or Not.

  1. You are NOT alone, I can SO relate, especially today. Tonight Papa’s girl, eight years old, severely overtired from not enough sleep from last night’s sleepover at cousins place, hungry and grumpy because she refused tonight point blank to eat mixed up food (meat stew with veggies she likes) was having an added tantrum at bedtime and yelled at Himself that she didn’t want to live here with us any more. He got angry (which he usually doesn’t) and told her she was therefore quite welcome to go if she wanted. The shock of it was palpable. A severe growing up moment. Tears galore. I know that she was angry because she wants pocket money same as cousin gets, but at our house kids have chores to to earn it and at cousin gets the money with no work. BIG “Life” lesson tonight and the fact that it was Himself that lost it was probably the biggest shock of all. The altercation and her tears sparked insecurity in Mr. Four so I was the one in be with the 18kg limpet wrapped around me tonight… even the asking the questions over and over and me repeating the same answers “no you may *not* sleep with Lego in the bed with you/no, you can’t have the light on to “read” it’s past sleeping time already” are exactly the same scenario LOL. All of us talked it out together, and finished the bedtime routine with one of Himself’s funny made up stories where we each contribute an character or element that he then has try and incorporate into the unfolding story.
    If Parenting came with a book of rules it would be useless, ‘cos the kids keep changing the rules as they go along anyway. We do the best we can, some days it goes better than others. I have told my kids before that I *ALWAYS, ALWAYS* love them, it’s just that sometimes when I am angry I might not at that moment “like” them very much. They “get” that. We all survived today in spite of it and {phew} tomorrow is another day… For you too tomorrow is another day. Good Luck to us all 🙂

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  2. Colleen

    Again, I laughed at these incidents, Leslie. I recalled a battle with my thirteen year old son, now 34 and a father as firm with his son as I was with him.
    Joshua was always so well behaved until he became a teenager. One day, he was complaining about his chores. We both were raising our voices and then, he stormed out the front door and marched down the street. He was barefoot, so I picked up his high tops and threw them down the street after him, “Don’t forget your shoes!” I shouted as I slammed the door.
    His younger sister, the peace loving Libra stood there stunned. Just a normal “asserting one’s autonomy” in teen land day. The drama is a means of letting off steam.
    Your tales of Noah and Gabe are so real, humorous and even tender. I love the scene where Gabe called out to you and when you came, he turned away. You did well to wait so patiently at his side.

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  3. Scooter

    This made me laugh out loud. I know I am in the “honeymoon years” here, with a six and seven year old. One of my best friends, and someone whom I regard as an excellent parent, recently duct taped her 11year old son to a kitchen chair in a moment of complete exasperation. I laughed out loud when I heard that too. I know my day is coming. I’ve already asked the pediatrician if it is possible that my seven year old is premenstrual, because she is so damn moody all of a sudden. The doctor (female) replied that “she is a woman in training.”. I was annoyed about that response, even coming from another woman, but I suppose it’s quite true.

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  4. Marilyn

    Leslie,

    I did not laugh (big smile though) but OMG!!!! There would not have been any guilt if you had put the suitcase out on the front porch for him!! (after he left the front door and went to the back door)
    This has been a wonderful experience enjoying your stories, thoughts, poetry and words of wisdom throughout the forty days of Lent>>>>>
    You have inspired me to begin a journal to write down my thoughts daily. It has been very very therapeutic. So many times we all feel alone but because of people like you, we know that we are all in this together :)))
    Have a wonderful Easter with all your “guys”
    Let me know if you start a new blog! I would like to join again:)))
    love m

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  5. Leslie, your writing is brilliant. Love this post. Love your voice. I survived two teenaged daughters without any of us being incarcerated, but it was waaaaayyyy too close for comfort. Thank you for writing!

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    • LCS

      Julie, thank you SO much for visiting and for sharing your thoughts! Despite my complaining, I am always thankful that I was given boys to parent, not girls, having been one myself…! 🙂

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  6. Leslie,

    In researching my own blog article, I came across your website. I can truly relate.

    I had no kids in my first marriage of 23 years. But as a private music teacher working with kids, I had answers for my student’s parents. Yup, I had ALL the answers. Oh, looking back on the advice I gave… makes me want to kick myself in the ass – hard!

    You see, almost five years ago now, when I was already the grandpa-age of 52, I got myself an ‘instant family’ when I remarried a gorgeous woman 12 years my junior who just happened to have two daughters, now aged 6 and 13.

    Funny thing is, I haven’t given advice since that fateful wedding day. Instead, I’m seeking advice as in, “What the HELL was I thinking?”

    Don’t get me wrong; I couldn’t ask for a better marital partner – she’s the woman of my dreams and then some.

    It’s those other two creatures who occupy our living space. Having your own kids is bad enough; toss in the gas/strike-match combination known as step-parenting and I’m running for the first shrink’s couch I can find. (Good thing my wife is a counselor)

    Yes, some day we’ll look back on this and laugh. I’ve already written a sweet, innocent piece on how my little one embarrassed the crap out of me. Cute stuff, really. http://lovethatfeeling.com/blog/my-kid-kills-me/

    However, we also need to learn how to laugh a lot sooner at the more seriously trying times, too. Otherwise, all hope is lost. One of the best skills one can acquire is the ability to turn rants into regales. Leslie, you seemed to have nailed this down perfectly.

    I LOVE your writing!

    All the best from Toronto from your new fan,
    Russ

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    • LCS

      Thanks so much for visiting, Russ, and sharing your experiences! Looking forward to checking out your blog (and reading the perspective of someone who’s already been there on the parenting front)!

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  7. Hi from a Dad with two kids, a 13 yr old girl and a 10 year old boy. Yes both beautiful, wonderful blessings that I love to death… and yes… a pain in the ____ at times. But I wouldn’t have it any other way! Great post… keep writing!

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