When did my seven-year-old son begin turning into a thirteen-year-old girl? I swear, Brother is more emotional these days than a pre-menstrual tweenager. And I don't know what to do about it.
Each time something doesn't go his way, he sees fit to turn around and run off, usually spewing something over his shoulder like, "You just don't want me to have any fun!" or "You're making my life miserable!"
It's like a scene from Lizzy McGuire. Or so I've heard.
This morning after church a group of his friends and their parents were going out to eat lunch. I have a twenty in my wallet for gas and that is it. No extra for eating out. Apparently this was a lunch of particular signifigance in his social life, even though he had just spent three hours "hanging with his homies". Never mind that. His fun quota hadn't been met yet. Once I dared to tell him we were going home and not out, he ran away from me into the kitchen. I followed and ordered him to come with me. "I want to be alone," he said sullenly, pulling off a pout that would make Greta Garbo green with envy. "I need some quiet time." "Well," I replied. "You can have all the quiet time you want in your room at home. Come with me. NOW." And in case he still didn't get the picture, I put on my best crazed, maniacal mommy face, lest he think about storming off again. He hops up and I turn to make sure my other two children are present and accounted for. I grab the girls, my stuff and head to the door.
Wait a minute.
Yup. The third, has gone AWOL. I ask other people standing around if they have seen Brother. No one has. I assume he has gone ahead to the van, since he wouldn't dare hide from me. I go out to the parking lot, where the hot sun is beating down on me and I'm balancing books, bag and children. I see the van, but no seven-year-old sillouette in the window.
Brother has a death wish.
So we trapse back to the building - did I mention it was hot? - where I almost rip the door off the hinges. As I walk in I see Brother hiding out in the prayer room, looking very guilty. I speak two words.
And it's all I can do to not go postal. I inform him he will be receiving a spanking at home. We go back out to the van and get loaded up, where I give instructions for complete silence. I hit the road like a Nascar driver with a severe case of road rage. And no one spoke a word. Probably feared for their dear little lives.
We make it home in one piece and Brother takes his place on my bed, where corporal punishment is administered. By this time I have cooled down and don't want to have to follow through with my promise. But I don't have a choice. He gets one swat and falls to pieces.
My heart breaks for him. We have had to say "no" a lot lately, and I know he's frustrated by that. I'm frustrated by that. Hubby has been working and taking summer classes and he's not home enough for any of us. I know that plays a part in things, too. But what can I do? I take him in my arms and tell him I understand how he feels. I tell him I love him. And I tell him he can never, ever, under any circumstances hide from me again.
I know there are difficult times on the horizon. I see a day coming when my embrace won't soothe the hurt. And I'm not ready. I know my job is to see him through this journey to become a man. But why does it hurt so much? Why is it so hard? On the one hand I want him to grow up a bit and learn to handle his disappointments. On the other hand I just want my little boy to stay small enough to snuggle up in my lap and love Thomas the Tank Engine forever. Unfortunately, he doesn't fit in my lap very well anymore and Thomas has been replaced by Batman and Superman. He grew up when I wasn't looking.
We are struggling, he and I, with the changes that are happening to and around him. I don't have the answers. But perhaps it has more to do with just being here for him. To let him know I understand his frustrations and his fears, even if I can't solve them.
And I will give him hugs. Lots of them. Because for today, it did the trick.