Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

For Jane, To Prove That She Doesn't Even Know What It MEANS To Be The World's Worst Parent

"I'm going to take my shoes off," N, my 4-year-old, announced in the car this morning.

"No, sweetie. We're almost at school, and we're running late. I don't want to have to put your shoes back on," I said in my best Sweet Mom voice.

"I gonna do it..." he replied, singsongy.

"Don't," I snapped. (Sweet Mom has a short shelf life in me.)

About five minutes later, he announces with obvious glee. "I take my shoes AND my socks off!"

I fume. "Well, that makes me angry," I say.

Two minutes later. "Mommy, let's play policeman." (It's one of the very short, very boring list of pretend games he likes to play as we drive to and from his school/my work. The other is "you be N, I be Mommy." In that one, the Mommy pretends she's going to take N to the zoo instead of going to work, only to laugh triumphantly at the last moment and say, 'No, no, we have to go to school. Sorry!' Clearly, I'm quite the role model.)

"No. I don't play games in the car with children who don't listen to me."


"How 'bout we sing a song together?"

"No, I don't sing with children who don't listen to me."

More silence. We pull into the school parking lot.

"How 'bout I put my shoes on now?" N says as I open his door.

"Nope. You're going to walk barefoot to your classroom and you can put your shoes on when we get there. I told you that I didn't have time for this today, and you didn't listen."

Still making the best of a bad situation, he tiptoes his way to his classroom door, doing little skips and hops. He's so freaking cute I want to scoop him up and hug him until he pops, but I just smile a little.

We get into the classroom, and I hand him his shoes and socks.

"You put these on for me?" he asks.

"No. I can't. You have to put them on yourself while I sign you in."

He sits at my feet, and begins pulling on his socks and shoes. I finish signing him in, turn to one of his teachers, and tell her that he's going to need help with his laces. She nods. I turn back to N, and say, "Can I have my kiss and my hug now?"

He doesn't look up. "I not done putting on my shoes yet."

"I can't wait for you to put your shoes on. I told you. I have to get to work."

Now. Now is when it hits him. He glances up at me, startled, and tears spring to his eyes. He looks back down and continues pulling on his sock, a little panicked. "I need to put my shoes and socks on," he says, tears running down his cheeks.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," I say in a gentle voice. "This is a problem you created. You have to figure out a way out of it yourself. I have to go."

(In the background, I hear a quiet whoop from the teacher, and a 'you go, Mom!' It helps.)

He won't look up. His cheeks are burning red, and he's shoving a shoe onto his unsocked foot.

"Can you give me a hug and kiss?" I say again.

He doesn't reply. More shoving.

I lean down and kiss his head several times. "You know that even when I'm angry with you I still love you, right?" No response. "Even if I'm angry, even if we're angry at each other, I still love you very much." No response. "OK, honey. I love you. Have a good day."

Still nothing. I can hear his breath catching in his throat in little pathetic heartrenching sobs.

I turn around and leave. Even though I really want to turn around and go back in and scoop him up onto my lap and tie his shoes and kiss his neck and make him giggle. I know I shouldn't. I do believe it's important not to engage in power struggles. And I do believe I handled that well, though not perfectly. But I hate this process, sometimes. It feels like the breaking-in of a wild animal, and it's painful. On the other hand, I don't want him to be that kid who never has to think about the consequences of his actions, and who doesn't have to consider any one else when he makes choices. And even if I know he's not ready to truly get these lessons yet, I believe it's time to start teaching them to him anyway. Because they tend to take a long time to sink in.

I believe all of this. So I keep walking. And drive to my assigned parking lot about a half-mile from the daycare. And go up to my office. And turn on my computer. And call the daycare to ask the office assistant to go and check on him, to make sure he's OK.

Because I may be a Mean and Horrible Mom, but at least I know it.

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