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Friday, August 21, 2009

about a boy

My son has been on my mind a lot lately. Not just on my mind, mind you, but also all up in my grill.

Much like telling a pregnant woman how it will be when she has the baby in her arms as opposed to inside her body, knowing full well that no words can do this description justice, how does one adequately describe the differences between raising boys and raising girls?

I'll be honest: my girls are easy. EEEE-ZEE. I get them. I know how they think. In ways that others can't, I see how they feel. I understand their frustrations with wanting their curly hair to be straight, with wanting to be like everyone else, or just with being a girl. Even when they, in exasperation, groan, "Ugh! You don't get what I'm saying!" -- I get it.

But The Boy . . .

Here's how I've explained my relationship with the boy:

It's been more difficult than learning a foreign language -- in fact, that's exactly what it has been. In his fewer than three years of life, he has, and continues to stretch me - emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally - more than possibly any other thing or person has in my entire life on this earth. Dealing with him is exhausting in every possible way. I cry overtly wail over my experiences with this boy on a regular basis. Ordinarily this happens at the end of the day; sobbing into my pillow, or locked in my bathroom, after he's fallen asleep (which, solely for illustrative purposes, is anywhere from 9:30 pm to 5:30 am - any hour within that timeframe is not uncommon).

But here's the thing:

I am in love with him.



Head-over-heels, lovey-dovey, trulymadlydeeply, smitten with this boy.

As a bonus: with all his crazy (and there's puh-LEN-ty of that to go around), I am his number one. I'm the one who can fix it. I'm the one who . . . well, I'm just the one.

It's difficult, I should maybe explain (while straining to not look like someone full of excuses), for someone of his age in his particular situation. Here's the formula:

Terrible twos
Used to have hearing loss and as such is delayed in things like speech & ability to express feelings accurately therefore causing a monster-sized amount of frustration

No, you don't understand.


If you happen to know my son, you do know what I'm talking about. It's, honestly, unreal. And, if I'm being completely honest, as his mom, it's beyond humiliating. Every Sunday I deal with it. We sit down in the pews, and minutes go by -- the most it's ever been is about 17 -- and he starts screaming - screaming so much that we're getting Looks from others. So I take him into the hallway and sit with him on my lap where he thrashes and kicks and makes an enormous scene. I (again, this is every Sunday) sweat so much that my makeup melts off of my face, and every muscle in my arms (and then some) is being used to hold this boy still so that he doesn't hurt himself or anyone else. I look out the glass doors, imagine myself climbing the mountains, strain to hear the talks being piped through speakers in the foyer, smile at passers-by, all to keep myself from completely losing it. This lasts for about an hour. At home, I don't usually have to restrain him (unless, again, he's putting himself or someone else in danger), so the screaming lasts longer. As in, three hours.

I'll give myself this much: I'm really patient with him. Not in a manipulative, "See how patient I'm being with you?!" sort of way, but I sincerely do my best to understand him, why he's doing what he's doing, and I know that yelling (or worse) doesn't do anyone any favors. I'm striving to teach him, to show him the way to express himself, so as to help reduce his frustration. In fact, lately he's been using words really well. Before, he'd grab my hand, yank me over to the refrigerator, throw open the door and yell whilst jumping up and down. Now, I help start him off with, "Mommy?" and he finishes: "Mommy? Maaay? IIiiiii? Peeeeez? Sooooome? Aaaaaah? Puuuuuuuh? Juuuuuuuuice? Diggajukkadakky!" (Don't know what that last word is, but he uses it every time.) It works, he gets praise, smiles, and more and more progress is made.

Sometimes, however, it all just falls apart.

Like today, for instance.

I decided to go to what I told Superstar was, "A hot dog party! You know Stephanie, who we hiked with last weekend?"

Superstar: "Stephanie Nielson who was in a plane crash?"

"Yes. Her dad wants to be the mayor of Provo, and today he wants to give everyone a hot dog."

"The boss of all of Provo? Maybe I'll be that when I grow up! Nevermind, I don't really want to do that. But I do want a hot dog."

Rather than haul out the double, I decided to opt for the single stroller for Baby Atcha (who is full-on toddler, but don't tell her mom, who wants her to stay a baby forever), and have Superstar and Bubby walk.

We arrived at the festivities, said hello to friends, and after a few minutes, Bubby wanted a drink. I brought him to the big yellow cooler on the table, and got him a drink by simply placing the cup under the valve and pushing on it. Wouldn't you know -- as I pushed on the valve, the lemonade came flowing out, right into the cup.

And that was it for Bubby. All he wanted to do was stand there and press that valve. I did my best to engage him, to get him away from the table, but to no avail. After catching him making a puddle and smiling about it, I picked him up -- or, tried to. He somehow magically made himself weigh three times his actual weight, and sat down on the ground, giving me the stink eye. I know from experience that, left alone, he may just get over it, so I let him sit. Unfortunately, his sitting area was right where people needed to stand to get their own drinks. After Chris Clark had to awkwardly reach over Bubby, I picked up Bubby to move him to a different area of ground, where he angrily took off his shoes and threatened to get undressed (one of his I'm-mad-at-you moves). Then he lay down on the ground. I attempted a few conversations, which all quickly dissipated as it was obvious that I was Dealing With My Son.

After ten or fifteen minutes of not really talking to anyone, my friend Sue-do came over to greet me. It was at this point that Bubby decided to stand up, look me in the eye, and maneuver toward University Avenue, a street (busiest in Provo?) that he is not above running into, as he has done it before (oh yes he has!). I took off after him, and he ended up slipping on some grass and, again, in defiance, laying on the ground and not moving. Executive decision made: We Were Leaving. I gathered our scattered few items (sippy cup, shoes), directed Superstar to follow me while pushing the stroller.

I picked him up.

That's when he did it.

He screamed.

S c r e a m e d.

The world stopped. I don't know why I was surprised, but for whatever reason, as people -- masses? that's what it felt like -- turned their heads to see from where this blood-curdling scream was coming, I felt my face flush. The noise that he was making is the noise that any other child would make after, say, breaking a bone. Or several bones. All I did was pick him up. That's it. And I know that this was just his "I'm frustrated!" Noise. But other people didn't know that, because it sounded like he was being tortured.

Caught off guard, the lump rose, and my bottom eyelids began to sting (just like right now, as I'm typing this). Blink. Blink-blink, to try to get it to stop. Hugging him tightly (the kid is 40-some pounds of muscle), and avoiding stares and, above all, eye-contact, we marched down the sidewalk and across the street to the van. I buckled him in as he fought and continued to scream. I thanked Superstar for her glorious help and happiness as she climbed in and as I buckled in the baby complete with binky and silky blanket. As I unloaded the stroller, the tears began to fall with each item I tossed into the van: Wipes. Shoe. Shoe. Toy. Cup. I folded the stroller, walked around to my door and tried to breathe. The A/C wasn't strong enough to cool my face, and my hands weren't fast enough to wipe away the tears. After a couple of minutes, and before I pulled away from the curb, I turned around to look my boy, still screaming, in the eyes.

"Son. Please stop it. Please."

He looked at me.

Though his hearing my plea is not new, he doesn't often see me crying like I was.

He stopped crying and stared at me. Then he put his hands over his eyes, and held them there for over twenty minutes.

When we got home, I first unbuckled my sleeping baby and brought her to her crib. Going back out to the garage, I gave Superstar permission to go play with a friend, watched her happily ride away on her bike, and then I looked at my boy. He looked back at me, and willingly moved his shoulders and arms, helping me to unbuckle him and remove him from his carseat. I offered my hands to him, and he reached for me. When he was safely in my arms, I closed the van door, and as I carried him up the steps to go into the kitchen, looking me straight in the eyes, he leaned over and kissed me on the lips.

Maybe next time we go to church, we'll last 18 minutes.


compulsive writer said...

i love you. i've heard your boy. i've witnessed your patience. but more than patience i have watched and appreciated your efforts to understand. in addition to love, the child in me knows how important the understanding part is.

how tender it is to see that even at such a young age the understanding part can go both ways.


Colie said...

Oh you're a wonderful mother. I've seen it many times and hearing your new experiences with motherhood only make me love you more.

wendysue said...

That's why we love those little boys so much. . .the tear at us in every direction.

b. said...

I did not hear him from my office (if that is ANY consolation at all)

You are a woman whom I love to watch mother. I admire your patience, consistency, and obvious love for your girls AND your boy.

You're doing just fine.

sue-donym said...

I love you. And the boy. And your tireless patience (something I severely lack).

This too shall pass. You are a GREAT mother. And I don't mind screaming that to the world!

Shar said...

He loves you so much. He's lucky to have a mom like you!

Kalli said...

Ugh, being a mom is HARD.

Bubby is so lucky he's got you on the job.

La Yen said...

I think that there are tender mercies that allow them to have moments of clarity at the precise minute when we can no longer take it any more. Hooray for getting one.

And I love him and I think he is great. And I will fight anyone who gives you crap about it. And you know I will.

Beans said...

I'm with La Yen. You know I'll fight for you... I already have a list started for some people when I get out there again. Love you. Love Bubby.

This is me said...

That story got me all choked up. It was great. Simply great.

I, too, have a couple of girls and only one boy. I don't know how those little boys do it, but they just steal our hearts don't they? And they really know how to push our buttons, too.

Your son is lucky to have you.

Mrs. O said...

These boys just pull at our heart strings, always. I admire your patience and love.

Carina said...

Being a mom is hard.

Let's go to the mall!

Amy Hunter said...

I am amazed. You are amazing. Thank you for letting me learn more about you. You and Bubby have endeared yourselves in my heart forever. I'm so excited to get to know you and your family better!

Dolly said...

I can so totally relate to every word you've written! My son, Starwars has taken me down the very same path-and he's about to start k-garten next week:) We've been through three years of speech therapy and he speaks so well now (and so much!)...that we wonder WHY we worried about his communication skills. But, he was a screamer! So, now...I sit down in the evenings-just to let him tell me all about his day. I learned that he mowed the lawn today for me-with his stroller:)

Kaerlig said...

I feel what you are saying- to have a son that tests and tries you. I remember those early years and how hard they were and I wish I could say that we don't have the tantrums and melt downs now but we still do. I am still being tried and tested. You are patient and loving and your son is blessed.

vanessa said...

I nannied a boy that sounds a lot like this. Oh his screams. I loved that kid but could get through it because I know I left at 6pm. You need to make yourself leave at 6pm sometimes too :) Easier said than done huh?

I really love your blog.

swampbaby said...

All I can say that may mean anything at all is that isn't amazing that this little boy was specifically sent to YOU because Heavenly Father knew that YOU were his best chance here on earth to get him back to him? You are doing a great job. One that no one else would do as good as you for Bubby.

PS If it makes you feel any better, I cry almost as much on a daily basis over one of my boys.

•stephanie• said...

wow. i'm having a hard time typing through my tears - mostly because of the memories this post dredged up. my profoundly hearing-impaired daughter was once an incredibly frustrated toddler, too.

i think i'm crying because of how far she's come. she'll turn 29 next month, she's married and has four adorable children.

but there was a time - a time when "i [was her] number one . . . the one who [could] fix it . . ." as you so beautifully wrote.

maybe i'm crying because she doesn't need me so much any more.

again, wow. thanks for this brutally honest post.

Holly said...

I greatly admire your patience. You are far more experienced than I, but I have found that if I can express my feelings to my kids (crying, telling them I'm very mad, etc.), they understand. You are a wonderful mother, and I hope sharing your experiences is helpful to you.

Sister Pottymouth said...

There's just something about boys and moms that is indescribable.

You and the boy are beautiful people, and you are a great mom.

Pamela said...

Hey Jenny, nice meeting you on the friday hike, it was fun to chat! But, then I saw you on i never grew up, and thought: "hey, I just meet her, awesome!!" Kewl.

Gerb said...

That last part got me. That Bubby! You are a wonderful mom and this story proves it.

Rynell said...

You got me all teary eyed too.

This was familiar to me because I've got one boy who is difficult and as a baby/toddler he was so so so much more difficult. I totally feel for you. And I think you're an awesome mom. You are his everything.

~j. said...

Thanks, everyone, for your support. I actually wrote this in the wee hours, and it's interesting to me how detailed it came out to be, taking into account how exhausted I was at the time.

I'm guessing that some people read this and said, "Big deal. The kid screams." The fact that it's so much more than screaming (there are no words to accurately describe what he does) is kind of an aside; this was a special day, another step forward in our relationship, me and m' boy. And like la yen said (perfectly, as she is wont to do), tender mercies (is there a better phrase for this term?) were delivered just when needed -- to me. We should remember when that happens.

Thank you for sharing your feelings, thoughts, experiences.

Hailey said...

Yes, I have the screaming, and yes, I have done the crying, and yes, I have the boy. I'm sorry I couldn't have helped more that day--my own dear terrors were there...