All mothers, or all parents rather, know that the time gap between one oh, shit! moment and the next is small. There’s that golden five minutes when everything is right in your world and the rock of now freaking what?! hasn’t shattered the glass of homework is done, dinner is ready, house is habitable, and the kids are mostly clean. Yes, when you’re a mother to two little boys, one of them prone to fits of extreme hyperactivity, that is your utopia. It’s a step up from the game of limbo I was playing when both my boys were under the age of three and how low can you go was anyone’s guess. That point was crossed when the washing machine crapped out at the same time as my breast pump. Begging God to grant you just one effing onesie that’s clean, just one! while you rummage through the pile of baby clothes like a homeless bag lady with her udders full to bursting wouldn’t rank very high on anyone’s Nielsen box.
The past week has been a mad rush of trying to get all my school work done and handed in on time. The feeling of thank everything that’s holy, the semester’s over had barely registered when I saw my first grader get off the bus and walk towards home. He paused to fiddle with something the neighbor across the street had put up in his yard and that’s when we both heard it. The extremely loud, nasal voice of our neighbor, demanding that my son keep his hands off whatever it was he was fiddling with for fear of it breaking and him hurting himself. The man was shouting so obnoxiously, at the top of his lungs, that I and the other kids walking home from the bus stop could clearly hear every word.
My son stared in the direction of the voice for a minute, stunned. Then he turned and slowly walked towards me, shock, hurt, and humiliation written all over his face. I felt those emotions myself, along with guilt. Not the kind of guilt you feel when you’re perusing Wikipedia articles while ignoring their please donate requests, but the kind of guilt you feel when you know you’ve failed someone.
My seven year old is a sweet little guy with an over the top zest for the funner things in life and an inability to keep his hands to himself. He’s the typical boy, just extremely overactive. He’s fried chicken, cooked extra spicy. If something in his vicinity is just standing there, minding its own business, he has to get his Facebook on and poke it. Often that something is his little brother.
He’s a curly haired cutie that neither listens to nor fears anyone. Being the first occupant of my womb entitled him to certain freebies in the minds of his grandchild starved grandparents, both maternal and paternal. Before we knew it, he was spoiled to the point of no return. He’s got an attention span of a full sixty seconds and a proclivity for bouncing off walls, sometimes literally, and getting himself into trouble, usually of the type that requires bandaging. He is the road runner to my coyote in the Sisyphus like trials that are the mothering of a child with a mind of his own.
That’s not to say he’s mean or hurtful. Far from it. He’s the Macaulay Culkin of Home Alone, not the Macaulay Culkin of The Good Son. If he knew what he was doing would bother our neighbor, he would never have done it. He’s well aware that he’s only allowed to make his parents miserable.
While standing at our door watching him walk over to me, I remembered another shouting my son had received from the same man, earlier on in the month, for not stopping to look right and left before crossing the street. I had let that pass at the time due to it seemingly coming from a genuine concern for my son’s well being, but in light of the most recent screamathon, I felt like the world’s biggest dumb fuck of a mom for doing so. If I hadn’t let the man think it was okay for him to raise his voice at my son the first time, he wouldn’t have dared to do it for the second.
Along with the guilt came the confusion of what exactly to do about the situation. My mama bear instincts were raring to go ape shit on the guy, but were held in check by the fact that on both occasions, my kid was being careless. And even though the man was loud and vile, the end result was that my son was safer due to his actions . It was a tough few minutes of mental and emotional wrangling, but in the end I decided that, even it was for his safety, no one could talk to my child in a way that made him feel and look the way he did when he slowly walked towards me from the driveway across the street. No kid’s safety should have to come at the expense of his self esteem.
I dialed the number for the neighbor and spoke to his extremely polite and really mature for his age eight year old, who rides the same bus and was witness to what had happened. He calmly explained to me that his dad was too harsh and that when his dad shouts like that, it scares him, too, which made me think the man’s fuse seemed to be only slightly longer than that of the incredible Hulk’s. The boy said not to worry and that he would send his father over to talk to me as soon as he returned home.
I hate confrontation. I’m a five foot zero inch shorty, but my brain forgets that little detail when it’s trying to put out the fire in my she’s pissed off as hell quadrant. I can’t say I wasn’t scared of meeting the man. I was actually hoping he would show up after six o’clock and then he’d be my husband’s problem. But I remembered the way I felt earlier, when I saw my son’s reaction, and that decided it for me. I had had enough of feeling like I had failed him. Whether I wanted to or not, I would don my warrior mom, she bear out to protect her cub, this bitch means child protective business outfit and confront that bastard. Which I did. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I got the point across, with double the prize money awarded because I did it without…wait for it…raising my voice.
This whole ordeal, and some of the other dear god, what the eff scenarios I’ve been through in the seven years I’ve been a parent, have taught me that being a mom or a dad is challenging. Very challenging. It’s the test of your life, without the option of open book or open notes. You’re expected to have all the answers when half the time you don’t even know what the fuck the question is. Your job comes with the requirement that mommy will make it all better, even on occasions when mommy’s ready to shit her pants. But it’s worth it in the end, when your children go off to college and become the state’s problem. Just kidding. It’s really all worth it just to hear those sweet little guys call you their momma.