November 8, 2013
Mommy, I don't feel like a kid anymore
Henry uttered those lines a few weeks ago while in the car riding home from school. I was taken aback and instantly transported to the end of my childhood at age 8. I was forced to become an instant adult; was something causing my son to feel the same way at age six? I asked a few questions and received only the vaguest of answers. It was unclear if Henry couldn't articulate what he was feeling or if he had lost interest in the topic or if it was just a vague feeling with nothing behind it. I decided not to push the subject but hoped he would open up to me later if there was more to say. For the time being, we decided to laugh about it. I asked him if he felt like a teenager and he answered, "not exactly". I said, "Well then, maybe you are a 'keenager', a kid who is too young to be a teenager." He thought this was a hilarious word! Keenager.
Fast forward to this week and his really bad attitude. Henry has been sassy and downright disrespectful. He gets angry easily and lashes out physically at his brother and me. I've been setting limits right and left. He's had at least one time out each day but still the behaviors continue. I've tried a calm approach--asking if something or someone at school is bothering him. He actually made up a story about a boy on the playground. (I'm 99% sure it's made up; moms have good instincts and when coupled with teacher instincts, we can sniff out a fib from ten feet away.)
One night, after he bit his brother and then punched me (punched me!), I sent him to bed with no dinner and still wearing his school clothes. He came downstairs once while I was reading Liam a bedtime story, but I didn't acknowledge him. That was difficult. The entire evening was difficult as I wondered what could be going on to change my mild-mannered, loving child so drastically.
The next morning I checked my email and he switched on the television (yes, bad habits for both of us at 6 am--I know--let's tackle one problem at a time, shall we?) Henry walked over to me and said quietly, "Hey Mama, wanna take a break and watch Martha Speaks with me?" My fingers froze on the keyboard. I never watch television in the morning. In fact, after assuring myself that there are no urgent messages, I turn off the computer and multitask up a storm until we're ready to leave the house. I'm pretty sure that if I was filmed getting us ready in the morning, all you would see is a blur of movement flashing in and out of the frame.
I mentally repeated what Henry had asked and compared it to his behavior the night before. Hey Mama, wanna take a break and watch Martha Speaks with me? A dozen words that spoke volumes. I've made a lot of child-rearing mistakes but this time the better angels of my nature picked me up by the scruff of my pajamas and plopped me down on the sofa right next to my keenager. And there I sat for an entire half hour of prime get-ready-for-school time. I watched my boy watch the show. He knew I was watching him but didn't say a word and didn't move towards my lap. Once or twice, I glanced at the clock but deep down I knew that sitting beside my boy was a much better use of my morning.
When the show was over, the spell was broken ever so slightly. We both returned to reality, albeit a calmer one. Since then, we've had a few more incidents and meltdowns. Something is up and I don't know how to make my boy all better. He'll be seven at the end of February. It's much too soon to lose him to the grown up world of anger and pain.
I don't really want him to be a keenager. I want him to be a little boy. My little boy. And I want to sit next to him and watch Martha Speaks for a long, long time.