On Mother’s Day, which kicks off Mother’s week, of course, John gave me the gift all mothers want but feel guilty asking for: time away from their children. He allowed me to sleep way late. While I slumbered, he made the kids clean the entire house. When I finally meandered downstairs to eat breakfast, Ben set off to clean our bedroom. I went up to find my slippers neatly placed against the wall and my bra (which had been on the floor) draped over the ironing table. (“Because that’s where you keep that thing, right mom?”) That’s right, son.
I’m not going to lie to you. This has been difficult year of mothering. These people are not making it easy on me. They have issues. Like, serious issues. They’re not always normal and charming, like I am.
We’ll start with Caleb. This is a good kid. He rarely gets in trouble. However, on the few occasions when he does, I may feel compelled to raise my voice ever so slightly. When this happens, he immediately dissolves into tears and moans, “I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore!” Statements like these make it difficult to punish him. I mean, I could sit there and assure him of my love and then say, okay- go sit in timeout for telling Ben he smells like monkey poop, repeatedly, until Ben howled in protest, but somehow it never turns out that way. Instead it ends with me holding Caleb, telling him how much he means to me. I always seem to come out of it with a damp shirt, feeling rather taken.
Sometimes I think they’re training us instead of the other way around.
Benjamin and Daniel have responded really well to 1-2-3 Magic. This is a book that provides a very effective non-spanking disciplinary method for children ages 2-12. My middle boys are (there’s no other good word for it) naughty. Ben is dramatic. Daniel has anger issues. They have both thrown epic tantrums in their day. Now, all I have to say is “that’s 1” to get Ben to shut up and to make Daniel look afraid.
No, Ben and Daniel are trying me with their “hobbies.” Ben's hobby is... unusual. Daniel's is just frustrating.
Ben has taken up what he calls “arting.” Arting definition: To make art. His form of art? He draws superheroes on paper, colors them in, and cuts them out to play with. You may call them paper dolls; we call them paper action-figurines. We have at least 200 of them. Somewhere, a mother tree is weeping the loss of her child.
Lately, Ben has taken arting to a whole new level with his recent scotch tape discovery. Paper superheroes need capes and swords that can be attached and reattached, apparently. I bought him his very own roll and told him that’s all he would get for the whole month. (That was a week ago. It’s gone.)
There are paper scraps all over the house and pieces of tape stuck to my socks. And the paper guys? I caught one staring at me while I was going to the bathroom today. The whole thing’s gotten out of hand and Ben shows absolutely no signs of giving it up. On the bright side, he is the very best scissor-cutter in his preschool class. And his arting has certainly boosted his self-esteem. He recently told me, “Mom, I’m very, very good at art. I make art like a man.”
Daniel’s hobby, if you can call it that, is playing with all of his toys at once and then not picking them up. There are two types of behavioral training methods in 1-2-3 Magic. First, you learn how to get kids to stop their bad behavior. Then, you learn to train kids to start good behavior. An example of “good behavior” is cleaning up your messes. Daniel is good at stopping his bad behavior. When it comes to starting good behavior, however, he is a big fat failure.
He is stubborn. The other day, I stepped on an army guy. An army guy! I thought moms only stepped on army guys and then cursed about it in movies. It hurt like a you-know-what. I 'm fairly certain that I’m doomed to become a 35-year old hunchback thanks to the constant picking up of blocks and legos and rogue army men.
Ella. Ella. Ella. Light of my life, love of my heart- she sucketh the life frometh me. It's a known fact that when children can’t communicate verbally, they communicate in other ways. Like screaming as loud as a banshee. Ella’s very vocal indignations and frustrations come in three levels:
Level A: She says No! No! No... No! in a sing-song voice. And then she runs away. This occurs when I ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do or when I ask her something she doesn’t understand. It also occurs when I or one of her brothers asks her for something she has that doesn’t belong to her. (Ella steals stuff and then hoards it. This perturbs her brothers.)
Level B: She squawks like an angry chicken. One afternoon, she was running to the swingset when her much faster older brother whizzed passed her and beat her to her favorite swing. She ran right up to him and squawked so loudly that he got off the swing and warily backed away.
Level C: This is bad. I am now partially deaf in my left ear thanks to Level C. This is a full-fledged tantrum that is impossible to stop without either a) giving in to her demands or b) locking her in her room until she falls asleep. The neighbors know about Level C. The mailman knows about Level C. Congress has been alerted to Level C.
There are t-shirts for sale that say "I Survived Level C."
But of course it’s all worth it, in spite of all of these things. These days are going by so fast. Caleb can ride his bike, which means he’s just one step closer to pedaling away from me to spend time with friends. Soon, hanging out with me won’t be cool.
Yesterday, I taught Daniel to give me Eskimo kisses. (He calls them Elmo kisses.) Someday, I’ll brush my lips against his cheek for a quick kiss, and I’ll feel stubble. And my heart will break.
Little Ella. Last evening, when we drove home from Lockport, Ella woke up from sleeping and went into a full-fledged Level C tantrum. I couldn’t get her to stop for anything. When we got home, I stuck her in time-out. She persisted with her high-pitched screaming. After a few minutes, I retrieved her from the time-out chair, angry and exasperated, and stripped her down to change her and put her in her pajamas.
Her legs were covered in hives. (I can only attribute them to the strawberries she had a few hours earlier.) Though she had not been itching them, she became frantic when I put my hand over them. I think they were hurting her.
My sweet Ella. I can look past these times of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Not being able to communicate has got to be more frustrating for you than for me. To get through this, I remember that one day you might get married, and then your husband can deal with Level C.
Benjamin Bear, who has a wonderful way with words, told me he loved me very, very much the other day. “And my love keeps getting bigger and bigger!” he said.
Funny- mine does too.