January 23, 2018

stubborn

I haven't written about my teenage son yet.  This part of my life feels compartmentalized and guarded, probably because of that whole protective mother instinct thing.  In spite of my possessing more than a scintilla of mental health diagnoses, and the effect of the attendant irritability and forgetfulness, erratic personality, and my areas of advanced weirdness, the boy seems to be turning out to be a pretty decent guy, and somehow, once in a while, I do a good job parenting and get something right.  It's baffling to me, but it happens.  


The kid got a number of traits from his father ... desirable ones like a strong logical mind with strength in math and spatial relations, a keen interest in history, slightly olive-tinted Scots-Irish skin that tans beautifully in summer, and the ability to remain silent while mentally formulating a retort to an argument ... and some really unfortunate ones like a penchant for making puns.


He got some traits from me, too ... strong verbal skills from an early age (well, that's really from both parents), a sophisticated and geeky sense of humor (okay, that's from both, too), and an ear for music (that's me) ... and really nifty negative things like a strong will, a gargantuan stubborn streak, and an honest personality that makes him wear everything on his sleeve, something that's bloody useful in high school when you're trying to keep your feelings under wraps and conform and fit in.  I've explained that these will transform into real assets later in life, but that does shit for him in the immediate future.


And then there are the parts that are just him and came not from genetics, but from space, alien intervention, or some kind of chromosomal drift with incredibly low odds.  He's tall where both of his parents are five-foot-three, and his feet are already a size 12.  
His eyes are grey-green where ours are brown.  (Kid, please shut up about polygenic alleles and height determination because I have no idea what you're on about and it makes me feel stupid and anyway you're not a pea pod.) 

Sometimes I tell him he's recessive.  He doesn't appreciate this.  I also gave him the trait of having prehensile, independently-moving toes, which P.J. says means we are both close to our ape ancestors and evolutionarily regressive.   


He has ADHD.  And if you don't think this is a legitimate thing, you obviously have not lived it.  Kindly stuff any advice about Red 40 dye, sugar, sunlight, and "boys being boys".  ADHD is so much more than hyperactivity and impulsivity and inattentiveness.  There are developmental delays in areas like empathic perception.  There are different dopamine receptor patterns.  He's a third creature, because he's also highly intelligent, and in the gifted/advanced programs at school.  So imagine knowing all the material well but getting lower-than-deserved grades because you forget to do or turn in work, and you're in a class of gifted peers who excel, and you end up feeling like the dunce and develop anxiety and an increasingly negative self-perception.  Oh yeah, anxiety.  He got that from me, too. 


It goes without saying that like all kids, he grows and changes.  A lot.  All the time.  That's one of the universals of parenting:  Just when you've got the hang of something, it changes. Don't decide they like broccoli or hate sushi.  Don't assume you can pick out their clothes because you know their taste.  They're different people every week.  Many of us have stopped growing.  They haven't.  You're asking for trouble if you make the slightest assumption about anything.


Which brings us to the Great Salisbury Steak Meal Incident.  


The kid has craved them for years, always wanting a Stouffer's Salisbury steak dinner with macaroni and cheese for his lunches during the summer and on weekends.  But last fall, he informed me out of nowhere that he didn't like those any more; he liked the Boston Market variety, with two patties and the spiral macaroni.  Fair enough.  I started buying those for him.  Then a month later, he told me that he didn't like Salisbury steak, period.


There was one dinner still sitting in the freezer.


There arose a mighty power struggle between us, the Immovable Object meets the Irresistible Force.  We are both fabulously stubborn.


I asked him to eat it for lunch on a teacher workday, to get rid of it, and then I wouldn't buy one again.  Deal?  Deal.  He said he would.  He didn't.  It was still sitting in the freezer that evening.  I got mad.  He got sullen.


The next week, I intentionally bought nothing suitable for lunch for him that Saturday, so that he would be forced to eat the Salisbury steak meal.  He walked five blocks to Subway and used his own money.


I worked on a snow day while school was out.  I left P.J. instructions to make him practice the cello, do his homework, and eat the Salisbury steak meal for lunch.  She was caught entirely off guard by the gale-force resistance that swept through the kitchen.  I think he just forewent lunch that day, in protest.


I lit into him about it when I got home.  He put his foot down and said he just was not going to eat it.  I yelled about wasting money and taking having food for granted and developing fortitude and all manner of character attributes that were obviously malformed because of his refusal to eat something that, incidentally, he asked me to buy for him in the first place.  He stayed quiet rather than saying the things he was thinking about me.  (He got that from his dad.)


And so on.  This went on for weeks and weeks.  


Last week, the issue raised its head again, and it was the dawning of another terrible battle; you could hear blades being sharpened and troops gathering into formation.  And I finally realized how asinine it all was, locking horns over a god-damned inconsequential $2.79 box of processed food.  So I grabbed my phone and instead of making the next move in battle, I texted him and said that if he'd go down to the curb and bring the garbage can back up to the house, through the snow and ice, he could then enjoy the act of taking the Salisbury steak meal and slam-dunking it into the empty can, which would result in a satisfying noise and considerable emotional gratification.


(Did you know there isn't even a Salisbury steak emoji in my text app?  Jesus.  Don't know how they expect people to communicate.)


He hates getting the garbage can from the curb.  But it was up at the house in less than five minutes.  He slammed that meal in there like a spiked football.


Somewhere, behind closed doors in a well-appointed office, treaty papers were signed by high-level officials.


This might fall under the mommy-blog header of "pick your battles" ... but this was a full-blown war, and like most wars, it was pointless.  


I'm just waiting until he complains about having to make a sandwich instead.


Update:  The kid read this post and approves of my depiction of him and of the situation.  You are now bearing witness that he is forewarned about the sandwich-complaining business.  Remember:  You heard it here.


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