Yes–already. It’s time for Lesson #2: The right thing and the easy thing are rarely the same thing (and I ain’t even talking about speaking up for the persecuted here… stick with me).
You’re not supposed to start a book with the weather, how about a blog story?
It’s 72 degrees, probably closer to 80 inside the apartment, because it baked all day, closed up, and getting steamy in here. It’s after 7:30, the sun went down long enough ago for the sky to be black and it’s too late for it to be this warm. I’m irritated about it. The weather (read: temperature at any given moment. The other day I was cold when it was 72 and hot when it was 74. This girl: born, raised, and still residing in Southern California) seriously impacts my mood.
A few weeks ago my son told me he wanted me to play with him more. That’s what’s come out of him transitioning to this new school, by the way. He’s engaged in learning. He’s lighter. He’s more playful. He’s more easygoing. He’s staying connected instead of shutting down… and he tells me what he thinks and feels. It’s exhausting.
So tonight as I’m trying to catch up on emails while he’s entertaining himself in his room and he calls me in, I slap on a smile and enter the room to admire the block towers he’s building (and I’m thrilled that he’s building block towers because it doesn’t involve pretend killing anyone and I’m still judgy about that). I put my normal “I’m hot and therefore cranky” face on once I turn my face away from him and walk towards the bathroom when I hear, “Momma, will you play with me?”
This is the first time he’s asked me since he told me he wanted more… and I promised to deliver. Sigh. Smile. “Yes, love. Be right there after I pee.”
We play for a few minutes. I get engaged. I’m not even faking it. We’re connecting. I notice how tired I am. The time registers.
“Five more minutes until bedtime, baby”
“Okay, momma.” No mention that I’m not supposed to call him baby. He lets me get away with a lot…
A few minutes later we start getting ready for bed but the calmness of our connection disintegrates as I’m trying to force my will on him (I’m asking him to put on his pajamas, you’d think I was asking him to cut off a toe). It doesn’t necessarily escalate, but my irritation does. I attempt a distraction.
“When’s the last time you went pee”
“Babe. When is the last time you went pee?”
Then he proceeds to tell me a story about how he was playing in his room and needed to pee, but didn’t want to stop playing and go to the bathroom so he peed in the corner. Then he shows me the pee. IN. THE. CORNER. And he erupts into a fit of giggles.
“That’s disgusting” comes out of my mouth. I have no idea what my face looks like, but it’s not pretty. The fit of giggles rises again. I repeat myself, foolishly expecting a different result–I don’t get one. I can feel my chest tighten and my heart start to race. My ears are getting hot. I’m nauseated. I want to scream. I want to scream and demand and force immediate perfect cleanup as a remedy of this awful situation. And there’s no way in hell I’m reading a story now. Ew.
I walk out of the room. I turn the light off as I do as a mature sign of passive aggression against my six year old son (I’m so proud). I sit at my desk and resume my emails. So gross. I am angry.
A few minutes later he comes out of the room. I notice he turns the light off on his way (so responsible, sweet boy). He’s naked (that’s how far we got in the pajama debate). He theatrically walks past me (I’ve used this attention getting technique before too). I take him by the shoulders and hug him. I ask him what he needs. He explains that he was confused about how much time he had to get his pajamas on and that’s why he didn’t do it. I’m back to doing the right thing (although leaving the room instead of screaming was probably also the right thing minus the room darkening punctuation).
I validate his experience with reflection statements… I continue the hug at his lead. I invite him to get into his pajamas so we can talk about next steps. Together, with calm, kind voices, I guide him through the cleaning of the piss in the corner of his room (which managed to seep under a bookshelf, soak a pillow pet, splash on the Imaginext bat cave, and really just be disgusting). I also learn this isn’t the first offense and he “cleans up” the former pee site from an ill timed game of hide and seek as well. The pee cleaning gets done, he gets into bed. We authentically do not have time for a story tonight because we used our story time to clean up pee so he gets tucked in and the lights go out (I’m going to go ahead and say that’s the natural consequence… if I’m stretching you let me know).
He’s sleeping peacefully now… and I wish I felt good about how all this went. I wish I had some sense of accomplishment that came from doing the right thing–maintaining the connection with my child, allowing him an experience free of shame, getting the pee cleaned up without having to touch it… but I don’t. I wish I was coming on here to brag and inspire (I don’t know why I wish that… perhaps because that’s what I was used to–without knowing it. Oh, that’s why: I got validation about who I wanted to be through sharing that version of me, and only that version, with you) because that feels comfortable and easy. But I’m not.
So, it feels a little bit pointless an experience because I’m not seeking the praise of anyone for it–which feels REALLY yucky to admit, but it’s true. What’s the point in doing the right thing if it is #1, hard and #2, no one tells you how amazing you are for doing it that way?
I hear it has something to do with some intrinsic sense of accomplishment… I also hear the first step in finding that is by creating space for it by weaning off the praise. Off I go…