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Poop is the word. The oft used -in spite of Mom’s discouragements – word. Aren’t there other, more interesting, topics of conversation? Sure, Mom. We’ll try.
Driving home from summer camp, Medium and a friend decided to record a spontaneous “commercial.”
I think she’s been secretly spying me watching Mad Men …
Last weekend, Medium called a family meeting. We haven’t had one in months and I had no idea what triggered her to think of it.
She explained her problem and clearly communicated her expectations for our behavior. We raised our eyebrows (I may have smirked a little) and nodded understandingly. Every one of us promised to do better in the future.
We dispersed to our posts in front of various screens and quite frankly, I forgot the whole thing.
That is, until this morning, when I staggered into the bathroom for a shower and found this written reminder of my girl’s instructions:
She is her mother’s daughter. The “…or else” was implied.
Small woke up crying. This is uncommon and in my sleep fog I wasn’t sure if I had dreamed his cries or if he was truly sobbing. I waited. His cries intensified. I staggered out of bed to go to him.
“Did you have a bad dream? Are you sick? Did you pee?”
“No!” He wailed louder.
“Henry, buddy, what’s the matter? Are you sick? Did you pee? It’s okay if you did. Just tell me what’s wrong.”
“Why are you sad?”
“Cause I’ll never have a real dragon!”
I stood next to his bed, simultaneously amused and annoyed. “Is that really why you’re crying?”
“Yes, and even if I got one, you’d throw it away!”
I glanced around his recently cleaned and purged room. Ah.
“I’m sorry, buddy. I understand you’re sad. Do you want to come into my room and cuddle?”
The rejection pierced my haze like a knife. “Ok, then. I’m going back to bed.”
A minute later, I heard footsteps in the hall. I pulled back the covers. He tossed Piggy onto the mattress and climbed in beside her. The tear stains on his cheeks were a testament to the depth of his feelings. I hugged him close. “I’m sorry about the dragon,” I whispered. “If I could get you one, I would.” I paused. Unable to stop myself, I tacked on a redemption clause: “And I wouldn’t ever throw it out.”
“Thankth, Mom,” he mumbled around his thumb.
“I love you.”
He sighed. “I love you, too.”
We have a basement rec room that is largely unused unless we have overnight guests, in which case presto-chango! it is our guest room, or the kids have friends over, when it becomes a free-for-all room.
Henry has a friend over. It is her first time visiting us and of course, the two of them head to the basement. I am getting dinner together when I hear feet pounding up the stairs.
The pounding stops. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” Henry says. “Are you coming?”
“No, I’m staying down here.”
There’s a pause. I know he is processing her expression of independence. Henry rarely chooses to be alone. He is either trailing after his siblings or he is being trailed by his friends. He does not comprehend self-selected solitude.
“Okay,” he calls down. I hear a few more footsteps on the stairs, then: “Oh, Janie*, don’t worry about the scary monsters near the door over there. I turned the light on so they won’t bother you.”
He emerges from the stairwell and before I have composed myself, he darts into the bathroom. I am not surprised to hear small footsteps on the stairs shortly thereafter.
“I’m just coming up to check on the dog,” Janie says.
“Paco’s fine, honey. You know, it’s perfectly safe for you to play downstairs – you don’t have to wait for Henry.”
“No, thanks,” she says to me. Turning away, she calls to him through the bathroom door. She sounds exasperated. “Alright. I came up and am right here sitting next to the wall.”
“I hear ya,” he calls back. Janie and I listen to the sounds of the toilet flushing, the faucet running, the hand towel holder squeaking. The door slides open and he is there, looking for all the world like the cat who ate the canary.
He grins at her, then at me. “We’re going to go back down to the basement. Okay, Mom?” They depart without further ado.
He doesn’t understand privacy but he is a budding master of psychology. My apologies to all of Henry’s friends, present and future. If this is what he’s like at five, Lord knows how he’ll be at fifteen and twenty-five.
*Not her real name.
Last week, I was informed that for the past month, Henry spent his weekly “swim time” parked in a chair instead of paddling in the pool. His recalcitrance had spread to the other children and was now an “issue.”
I hate to swim. Not only am I a sinker, but I am uncomfortable in the locker room. I never know where to look.
Nonetheless, I agreed to go swimming with Henry.
On swim day, the kids’ flailing, spinning bodies skimmed across the classroom like spandex encased tumbleweeds. A teacher commanded the group’s attention (no easy feat) and they sat down for a pre-swim snack. As the kids munched on goldfish and blueberries, Henry’s friend X called to me.
“Henry’s Mom!” X said with a smile. “My Mommy….you.”
I could not catch X’s voice from across the room. “What, honey?” I asked, while wishing for coffee. Did I have time to run out for coffee?
The second time, X’s words were crystal clear: “My. Mommy. Can’t. Stand. You.”
Ahhh. Got it. Message received.
How was I supposed to respond to that? With a neutral “Thank you for sharing”? Or maybe a snarky “Tell her I feel the same way”? But I was caught off-guard by X’s comment. I recalled chatting with X’s mom on numerous occasions. In my recollections, she was always friendly–often saying hello and initiating our conversations.
I quickly concluded there was no appropriate response and I made none. Soon, snack was over and we were on our way to the pool. Henry was happy to swim with me and I delighted in his delight.
Later, as I reflected on X’s statement, my own Mommy-voice echoed in my head: “It’s OK. You aren’t going to be friends with everyone.”