Monday, March 13, 2006

Mommy... are you mad?

It's been a tough couple of weeks for me and my boy.

One of the funny things about being a parent it that you can study and study and know all the answers, but when the test comes you get everything wrong. And sometimes... that's a good thing.

My darling boy suddenly began "talking back" to me a couple of weeks ago. Shock delayed my response, but when it finally kicked in, I was surprised at how ill-prepared I was. I have lots of brothers.. LOTS. I have a husband and a stepson who was a troubled teen when I got him. I KNOW how to handle boys. Up until now, I've been pretty successful at it. But with my own kid? Surprisingly ineffective.

Time out doesn't work; taking away the video games doesn't work; bed without supper doesn't work. I even resorted to pretending that I didn't know him because no child of MINE would ever behave that way. That was effective in the short run, but caused nightmares of abandonment so scratch that one....

My husband picked him up from school and talked to him about it. My son asked him why Mommy was so mad all the time and he replied that I didn't like it when he talked back to me.

"Talk back, talk back.... what IS this talk back?" he asked. All this time I'd been yelling at him not to talk back to me and he had no idea what it was he was doing that was making me so mad.

So in the last few days, we've had a truce.

Yesterday, he decided he wanted to make a movie of his stuffed bear Fuzzy. So I dug out the video camera and charged up the battery (which took a while... it hasn't been out of the case in at least a year). I didn't have time to look at tapes to see which he could use, so I told him to practice shooting without recording anything. He took it outside and did that for a while, then came back in.

This morning, he wanted to look at tapes so he could make his movie as soon as he got home from school. We looked everywhere and couldn't find the camera. Everywhere. Finally, it was time to go to school and we STILL hadn't found that darn camera.

As I was backing out of the drive, he asked somewhat tearfully if I was mad at him. And he was shocked when I said no. "Of course not, sweetheart," I said, "Everyone loses things sometimes. Do you know how many times I've lost my keys? Being mad doesn't help. Losing stuff is just one of those things that happens. I know it's in the house somewhere because I saw you bring it in. It will turn up. And I know you didn't do this on purpose. When I get mad, it's because you are doing something deliberately that hurts my feelings or shows disrespect to me or someone else." He sat back in the back seat and pondered this for a moment. "I'm glad you're not mad; but I'm sad that the camera is lost. It feels different."

Did I solve this problem? For today, maybe. But not forever. I have to remember that he may not always understand why I'm mad and I have to explain it to him in terms he can understand. Easier said than done, I'm afraid. I just have to keep bumbling through this parenting thing until he's raised and see how it turns out.

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