Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Now don't you ever change, just promise me you're always gonna be as sweet as you are

One of my friends and I were messaging each other and having a bitch session, and in response to some complaint or other of mine, she said, "well, but at least your children are delightful."

I think about that quite a bit, because lately - and for a while now - my children are delightful.

We seem to have hit a sweet spot, temperamentally, behaviorally, intellectually and otherwise.  They are both very smart and doing well in school.  They are energetic and interested in going out and doing new things and seeing the world.  We go skiing and hiking and swimming and to museums and the zoo.  We watch movies and do puzzles and read books and color.  They are funny and fun.  They are affectionate and considerate and kind.

The other night I felt this incredible surge of love as I sat on the couch while Josie stood behind me and brushed my hair.

"I'm giving you your hair style, Mama.  I'm really good at it."  She poked a couple of bobby pins into my head and threw in a random ponytail.

When she was done, she lay down on the couch and started sucking her fingers, a sign that she was tired.  I picked her up to take her upstairs to go to bed, and she rested her head on my shoulder.  I squeezed her to me.

"You need to stop growing," I whispered.  "I need you to stay five forever.  You're so wonderful right now.  So no more growing, OK?  Can you do that?  Can you stay five?"

She patted my face and nodded.  It's a running joke that we have.

Sometimes I worry about the rigidity of their day at school, especially for Zeke.  It's a lot of seat time and constant testing, with only about 20 minutes a day for recess.  They have a color-coded behavioral system (green is good, purple is a warning, yellow is redirection, blah blah), and he gets in trouble because he'll be singing to himself or cracking jokes when they're supposed to be sitting quietly.

In other words, he's an energetic seven-year-old boy, and sometimes it's hard to sit still or pay attention.

I showed him how to do yoga-ish deep breathing exercises as a way of calming himself down. Sometimes it works, sometimes he forgets.  Sometimes the urge to make fart noises with his hands or to crack a silly joke about toilets is too powerful.

For a while, I was tying certain privileges at home, like using the computer or watching TV, to what color he was on at school.  It was starting to stress him out, and he was obsessed with it.  Even at home, he'd say, "Mama, am I on green?  Am I being good?"

And you know what?  He is good.  He's a good person, and I don't want him constantly worrying that he's not.

So I've decided, fuck it.

He always tells me if he gets in trouble, and we always talk about it and think about how he can act or react differently.  But honestly, when he's getting in trouble because he's restless or feeling silly, I'm not going to pile on.  I don't want him spending his days stressed out about what freaking color he's on, when he's not doing anything really bad.  He never engages in behaviors that I worry about - he's not a bully.  He doesn't get in fights.  He's not violent or destructive.  He's actually incredibly kind and sweet and generous.  So the punishment at school is enough for me.  He'll start with a clean slate at home.

Yesterday I said, "honey, don't worry about what color you're on.  Do your best to listen and pay attention, try to stay on green or purple.  But just relax.  You're a great kid, and if you get in trouble every once in a while for being silly, it's OK.  And if you feel the need to make poop jokes, maybe try to wait until you get home, because I think poop jokes are funny."

He seemed incredibly relieved.  He crawled into my lap and put his arms around me and hugged me tight.  I hugged him back, burying my face in his neck and breathing in that little boy smell that's a combination of soap and clean sweat and a little bit of fresh dirt.

And we stayed that way even after we started giggling because he had tooted right on my leg.

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