14 April 2011

For Every Yang, There is A Yin

Because I have, of late, been relentlessly upbeat,  I was rewarded with a fairly shitty day. Nothing catastrophic happened; it was just more of the usual challenges that suck the life-force from my soul.

It's 11:10 at night, and I am just sitting down to write. And it's not like I've been busy cleaning up the joint, and am now plunked down in my chair, exhausted but pleased, as I gaze out at my gleaming kitchen counters. Nope. I had to shove the kids' homework out of the way to fit my laptop on the table. I'm waving hello to the pizza box, which, if I was inclined to go open, probably still contains a gelatinous slice or two. I'm debating whether I should empty the remains of this morning's coffee and make a fresh pot, so I have the energy to unload and re-load the dishwasher. Maybe I'll just drink tea.

The mood of the day was established early, when Four refused to go to school unless he was allowed to bring Five's Nintendo DS game on the bus. I got him out the door toward the van that picks him up at the top of our driveway. Then I went inside and told Five I'd pay him money to let his brother borrow the game. He started negotiating a price, but I could feel the clock ticking, so I basically grabbed the game out of his hand and headed up to Four. Five came outside, sobbing, "You'd better not give him that game!" I got to Four and gave him the opportunity to do the right thing. Make his younger brother happy, or leave him crying. And this is where I should explain everything that was going through my mind at that moment.

The night before, taekwondo had ended badly. Four was disrespectful to me and the teacher, and he wouldn't/couldn't explain what had triggered his transformation from enthusiastic student to sassypants. This resulted in an hour of reading alone time in the bedroom before Four came out ready to apologize. So, I feared another complete meltdown.

The van driver is a nice, older gentleman who doesn't really understand the mood swings of my beloved Aspergian child. As I stood outside the van, negotiating with my boy, who was threatening to unbuckle, I let my feelings of inadequacy take over. I wanted to avoid looking like a failure, keep my kid in his seat, and send him off to school. Four chose the game over his brother, so I gave it to him, and told him he better enjoy it, because it was the last time it would ever rest in his hands.

Then I walked back toward Five, fully aware I had just left the frying pan to jump into the fire. It took an hour to calm him down. Here is the abbreviated version of  his commentary:

"I trusted you. You're a nice person, but you just came in here and stole the game from me! And now I am really upset. You've taken my heart, and broken it. Ripped it into pieces! And I'm crying, and I'm not going to be able to stop, and everyone at school will know, and they'll make fun of me. And I'll be humiliated! I'm only seven, and I'm shy! And I'm afraid I won't be able to stop crying, and I'll have to spend the day at the nurse. I'm not going!" Seriously.

I swept the ashes of my heart into my hand, and attempted to explain. But it's hard to say, hey, listen, I know it sucks that you have this totally needy brother, but every so often, I'm going to screw you over. Instead, we decided that letting him watch a bit of a funny movie would stem the tide of tears, and a stop at Dunkin' Donuts would fortify him for the day ahead.

When Four got home, the first thing he asked was if I had told Five he was sorry. I said he would have to do that himself. He did, and Five accepted his apology. Later, he took great pleasure in telling Three that he had gone to "DD", all by himself, and ate his own cup of munchkins at a table.

"Why did you get to go there?" Three asked.
"Because mom stole my game from me, and gave it to Four. But I forgave her."
I asked him to repeat it to be sure.
Now I just have to do the same.

14 comments:

  1. Oh, that is a truly shitty day. Hugs to you. I'll be hoping that tomorrow is better.

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  2. A truly awful day. Really an awful 24 hours, if we start with taekwondo, which wasn't a picnic either. I don't want to seem as if I'm minimizing any of the trauma, but let me make a short list of the ways that you showed that you are pretty damn competent at your job.

    1. You got Four to calm down and apologize after becoming Mr. Sassypants
    2. You got Four on the frakking van. And he attended school today.
    3. You figured out a way to distract Five and came up with a world-class prize/reward to compensate Five for his difficult morning. And Five attended school today.
    4. Four came home knowing that he needed to apologize, which was a sweet coda to a tough day.

    This post made me tear up, since it was such a rough day for you and Five. But the more I thought about it the more that I realized that I am wildly impressed that you handled this so well - even though I truly wish that you didn't have to handle it all.

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  3. Aww man...that really is a shitty day! Big hugs to you. You're an awesome mum and sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

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  4. I can feel how painful that conversation with Five was.... but, just by being your kid all this time, he was showing such depth of emotions, such a beautiful grasp of language, such purity of heart. Shitty day, true, good mothering, also true.
    Julie
    (who has had people she gave birth to say those same things at random points over the years)

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  5. That sounds like a truly terrible day. I can feel Five's pain and outrage. The world feels so unfair, even at 45. At 7, most of us believe that the world should generally approach fairness and that one of the primary roles of adults is not just to encourage fairness but to enforce it. However, I think you made the right choice. Fairness and trust are important, but they are not the only lessons that need to be learned. I think it is a worthwhile lesson for all children to know that their parents will sometimes need to balance conflicting issues. As a result, they sometimes make unpopular and even "unfair" decisions. Don't do it lightly and you found a very nice way to try to redress the balance.

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  6. Sorry, I had some editing issues. It should say "you don't do it lightly."

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  7. I think you handled it pretty well, Megan, and I know it was really draining for you. Remember to be kind and gentle to yourself, progress not perfection. And there's definite progress [so take a minute to enjoy that].

    Love you, and hope today is better. It's sunny, and that's a nice start.

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  8. I am so grateful for all of you wonderful women in my daugthter's life.

    Honey - that was an awful day but look how you handled it. I am always amazed by you, pained by your pain, and SO proud of what you accomplish with that huge loving heart of yours. All five of those boys are wonderful examples of your parenting skills.

    We're so lucky that God gives us another day. I hope this one is a gift for yesterday. ILY

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  9. Thanks, everyone. I feel like I should mention that the Captain has been away on a business trip. He wouldn't have been able to help with the morning drama (he leaves for work before kids get up), but he definitely would have helped at night. It makes for a much longer, draining day when I am single parenting.

    And I didn't even talk about the phone call from Three's math teacher...

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  10. Wow, Megan, big hugs!

    You did what had to be done to get Four to school w/o a meltdown and you managed Five's emotional blackmail magnificently (I personally would have been tempted to hand him a twenty to shut off the waterworks lol). Your grace was amazing to me!

    As for the shit hitting your fan, blame Mercury...it always works for me. And I burst into tears and yelled at my own mother yesterday because the DOG WOULDNT GET ON THE LEASH. You held yourself together admirably, trust me.

    As far as I have seen as a 2nd grade teacher, the Nintendo DS/DSi/DS 3D exist only to (a) serve as active ways to ignore authority figures (b) to be taken away as punishment. I despise them, so many have I repossessed and then carried around b/c I was afraid they'd get stolen off my desk...

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  11. @Lora: Believe me, I offered money. But Five was so upset, he proved his point by demanding "500 dollars and 20 more!"

    We go through phases with the DS. The ones the little boys play with belonged to Two and Three years ago, so at least I feel like I've gotten my money's worth. Neither Four nor Five are allowed to have them present in school. They remain locked in bookbags. So, it's just for van time. Five was howling about how he wouldn't see his game for six-and-a-half hours (he thinks this is the length of his day. I don't have the heart to tell him it's longer). I reminded him HE CAN'T PLAY WITH IT IN SCHOOL ANYWAY, but it didn't matter.

    And let me tell you, when I dropped him off and things were better, I calmly told him that if he and his brother continued to argue about the game, I would throw it away. I think he believed me.

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  12. All of your boys know they are loved, so you shouldn't be feeling inadequate in any way (yeah, right, I know how it goes). The good news is, you get to do it all over again today! ;)

    And I totally understand and appreciate why it would have been easier if the Captain were around later. Even if it was later after everyone was asleep. The dog has to listen to me vent quite a bit. :)

    Here's to an easier day and the ability to forgive yourself for not being superhuman.

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  13. WEBS, Ms. Megan, WEBS.
    And hugs.

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  14. Holy mother of a challenging parenting day!!! I was expecting the chain reaction to continue through each of the boys--amazed it stopped at Three. You should be right proud, there, missy.

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