Lately, I hear myself saying things like:
Take your hands out of your nose.
Don’t wipe your hands on your shirt.
Stop clicking your tongue.
Why are you under the table?
Why are you screaming like you’ve been stabbed with a dull knife?
Don’t say “butt hole” when you’re standing three feet from your principal.
Are you clicking your tongue again?
Speak. Clearly. Please.
Stop the potty talk.
You’re clicking again!
Why are you hitting the car with a plastic cup?
Is it possible for you to eat your cereal with a spoon instead of your fingers?
Why are you running in a parking lot?
Please. Stop. Clicking.
I could go on.
I’ve come to the unfortunate realization that my child has transformed into something akin to a pet peeve. My pet peeve. Sometimes. Okay, a lot of the time. I spend a good part of each day preparing myself for afternoon carpool – for the moment when after several hours void of tongue clicking, potty talking and mumbling, I’ll be reunited with this (gulp) annoying little person.
Ugh. Did I just write that?
He and I are both a perfect match and a paradox. He’s my son and my love and my light, but… He’s a boy. And I’m not. He’s six. And I’m not. He’s making his own way, and he doesn’t want my help, except for all the times when he does, which is awfully confusing. And, oh, he’s an emotional creature! His feelings are raw, extreme, and often surprising, and his way of processing the world is vastly different from mine. I don’t know what it’s like to stand in his shoes any more than he does mine. I sometimes marvel at how different we are given that he once lived inside of me.
I begin each day giving him a gentle good morning hug, and I end each night giving him a tender good night kiss. It’s in the middle that I falter. It’s in the middle that I forget he’s a young boy trying to figure out who he is, a kid working out the kinks. It’s in the middle that I hear myself saying things like:
If you sit like that, the chair will fall backwards.
Why are you laughing like that?
What happened to please and thank you?
Stop clicking your tongue.
I worry that I’m too hard on him. That he feels judged. That he feels criticized. That my constant attempts to mold him – even if they come from a deep place of caring and love – will, in the end, only serve to make him believe he isn’t good enough.
I imagine him all grown up with thick layers of disappointment, loss, and self-doubt on his skin. It’s inevitable that life will thrust these feelings upon him. It happens to all of us. But the last thing in the world I want is for any of those layers to be there because of me.
I woke up early in the morning thinking about something Toni Morrison once said on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She said, “When your child walks into a room, does your face light up?”
“When my children used to walk in the room, when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. But if you let your face speak what’s in your heart…because when they walked in the room, I was glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see.”
– Toni Morrison
I thought about the critical face – my critical face – as I drank a hot cup of coffee in the dark and quiet house. (Grateful Mama.) When it was time to wake him, I did so gently and lovingly, as I always do, and then I kept my mouth shut and let my face do the talking.