The truth is an unfortunate side effect to explaining difficult things to children is that it comes back, eventually.
I realize that I’ve spent too much time lately complaining about Zach’s complaining. Yes, I recognize the irony–thanksomuch. I can’t talk about this stuff with anyone when he’s awake, because he’s an eavesdropper. And every time I forget that he’s always listening, I pay for it later. Like a few days ago when he heard me mention that our plumber was cute– only to loudly repeat“THAT’S THE CUTE PLUMBER, RIGHT MOM?” when the man returned the next evening. Fantastic.
I wonder if it will be this hard to parent 4.5 year old Elliot? I mean, E’s hard now, but only because he rarely sits still and often pretends he cannot hear. Zach is more compliant, but he’s also more complicated. More emotionally draining. Never forgets any of the slightest details, or half-mentioned promises. Holds onto the past with a tenacity that is sort of astounding.
Forgetting details is kind of my thing. Saying things out loud– “oh, building a playhouse would be cool”– not realizing that sounds kind of like a promise? Yup, that’s me. Getting sucked into long conversations with crazy people? A hobby of mine. Getting sucked into conversations with Zach, about things that are difficult to explain to myself let alone keeping it moderately age appropriate for him? Gurgle, glub-glub. I’m sinking here.
Since my mom is remarried, I’ve had to explain where my father is, why he’s not around. The most basic of explanations– that he died from a cancer that he got from too many chemicals in a war, a long time ago. This conversation happened at least 5 months ago, maybe as much as 8.
What does any of this have to do with anything?
JB left for a business trip yesterday. Mr. Z has been a Morose Pile of Mopey Pathetic-ness. When I inquired after his mental health over dinner last night, it was because there was no one to wrestle with him. Poor Elliot, always happy to help, took that opportunity to bum-rush from behind, whilst squealing “WRESTLE TIME”. Yeah, that went well.
Today at preschool, for the first time ever, the teacher told me Z cried. Dude didn’t even cry the FIRST day of school. He’s been wallowing around the house, dropping hints about missing Daddy, is Daddy coming home for dinner, Daddy’s never coming back. And so on and so forth.
Then, as I thought about spraying a wasp nest (totally didn’t–leaving that for the Man of the House), and Zach started flipping out about chemicals that kill people, I clued in.
Not just that he misses Joel. Also that I think it occurred to him what life would look like without a Joel. (Nevermind that it would look nothing like this). But let me tell you, that picture incited some serious anxiety in my already-anxiety prone kid. He’s still processing the tornado thing, having overheard too many conversations, and seen too much damage. This possibility of Being Stuck with Just Lame Mom has fried his Anxious Datastream. Unfortunately for him, his method of expressing anxiety is to roll around in the scent of Passive Aggressive–a fragrance that I ignore. After a time of being ignored, he moves into straight up Aggressive. And everything around him just sucks. And I suck. And his brother sucks. And our house sucks because it’s old. And…and…and.
I try to be loving and kind. Then he just pisses me off and I tell him to shut it. Because he’s freaking himself out about something that hasn’t happened yet, or he’s OCDing the fact that the b-ball coach kept calling him Jack. My tolerance for this sort of shit is nil on the best of days.
One of my friends put it best– and I’m considering printing out flashcards for myself.
“Kids. They demand our active attention (“Play with me! Paint with me! Watch me do XYZ!”) and then, when they do find something to do on their own, we end up spending huge chunks of time analyzing the damage we think we’ve done to them while they have blissfully moved on to the next task at hand. “
On the bright side, this ennui from Zach really makes the 2.5 year old’s behavior preferable. I never thought that the bipolarity of a 2.5 year old would be better. But while E was beheading tomato plants and trying to climb potted trees at the Farmer’s Market he never once questioned the Meaning of Life. That I found that to be refreshing? I need a vacation.