Wednesday, January 23, 2013
A Bad Day
"Hey bug, how was your day?" I ask him as he clambers in the car, lunchbox in hand, snowboots leaving pats of brown slush where he steps.
"I don't want to talk about it".
I could have told you last night, when he was awake from midnight to 2am for no discernible reason, that he was going to have a bad day at school. I can barely hold myself together without a good night's sleep so the idea that a seven year old should be able to seems like an unreasonably high expectation. I start the car, spin the tires for a few moments trying to get traction on the snow covered ice pack that covers every inch of ground in this town and shoot out of the parking space, hoping not to hit anyone else as the back of the car slides and then rights itself in the center of the one way street.
"I had to go to Mr. Demarest's office".
(Internal dialog with self - "Shit! He got sent to the principal's office! AGAIN! Please please please say he didn't get into a fight with another kid, please say no one is hurt, SHIT!")
"Mama, I just couldn't control my anger, I wasn't angry about anything, I was just angry. And we were in line and I punched Ethan in the face and I had to go see MR. Demarest and he said not to do it again." He crumples into a deflated, defeated puddle in his booster seat, crying and red faced.
I take a deep breath. He is such a mismatched person: quick to anger, slow to learn to control his body or his tongue and simultaneously so sensitive, so quick to just himself harshly, to feel embarrassed and ashamed. I would like to fein ignorance and wonder where he gets these traits, but in truth I needn't look further than his parents for the answer.
When I first met his father it was not unheard of for him to get into a bar fight, assume an insult he heard aimed towards someone else was meant for him, or that people who happen to be assholes in general were specifically targeting them with the intent of making him unhappy. I was an anxious kid who preferred to fight with teachers and peers then to put myself out there and (gasp!) *try*. I used serial monogamy as a way to not have to make friends. I used to have to factor in an extra 20 minutes for my ten block walk to work so that I could have my daily panic attack, wait for the lorazapam to kick in and still arrive on time. Jeremy and I have both had some unhappy years
Childhood can suck. It's hard to be a kid. My sensitive baby is so devastated by his own misbehavior that making him talk about it, which will in turn cause him to feel worse, more humiliated and more Bad, feels cruel.
But, I am the mom now. We write Ethan an apology note. We talk (well, I talk and he sits there, beet red and fuming and looking like he would rather be naked in Guantanamo then where he is) about not using hands. About how anger is a hard a feeling to manage. About alternatives to socking the closest person. I take away TV and video games for the remainder of the week. I remind him that I love him and that he is a good person who made a bad choice, and tell him about some bad choices I've made. I change my plans for tomorrow so that I can spend my morning taking the toys out of his room in an attempt to make it the most boring place on Earth so that he has no choice but to go the fu*k to sleep.
It's hard, watching your kid struggle with things and understanding where they are coming from while having to (at least somewhat) tow the party line about what is and is not ok. It feels like I am telling him he is not ok. It's scary that when I think back to having a hard time as a kid I cannot think of anything anyone could have said to me to make much it better. I just had to live through it, grow through it, get through it. And so does he, I suppose, but as I look at his devastated crumply face all I can see is a hurt, a sadness, a bewilderment, and I want to fix it.
I want to fix it and I can't. So I write about it, I try to keep my own issues separate from his, I talk to Jeremy about it, and I brush his hair away from his face as he finally falls asleep and sit by the side of his bed, watching.