A Weekend Unabashedly About My Kid

There were so many things going on in Cleveland last night, in and around my circle of friends, that I could have done about 20 things and still would have missed some stuff. Parties, sure. Theater performances? Absolutely. Concerts, readings, gatherings of various groups. I missed them all, save the one I chose, which was to attend my long-time girlfriend’s Halloween party. Down in Canton, no less, so a bit of a haul with the munchkin, who happily donned his Red Power Ranger costume (which I find extremely ho-hum, but it isn’t about what *I* want him to wear) but was a little insecure about going to a party full of people, none of whom he knew except the child of the host, and in that case, not all that well. But he went. He was crabby at first. He slept all the way there (“Mom, I don’t NEED A NAP ANYMORE,” LOL) and when we arrived, he was disoriented and clung to me like a barnacle. When he’s insecure and overwhelmed, like at family bingo last week, he loses all his bravado and becomes this shrinking violet I almost don’t recognize. So he clung to my leg, literally, for the first half hour or so while we ate yummy snacks and settled in. Luckily, my GF is an awesome party host and the weather was unbelievably cooperative for a late-October Northeast Ohio night, and the kids played several games outdoors, including D’s first go at bobbing for apples. He still lacks the common sense necessary to figure out how to win at a game like this, and I knew he’d spend all his tries and be left wanting, so I gave him some tips after he blew it the first time, and he was successful after that. Hey, motherhood isn’t all about wiping butts and noses. It’s also about life strategy, whether it’s how to be an able competitor in a game or how to buy a car – the latter, thankfully, won’t be applicable for several more years, though my Dad started taking me to the car lots around 8 years old to teach me how to spot a shyster, the games they’d play, the words they’d use, and how to recognize the con once it had started, as well as how to react. He sold cars for 17 years, amongst other jobs, and knew it all.

D and I both had a great time at the party and then headed home, singing songs in the car and occasionally playing the guessing game where he tries to guess from a few groups/musicians he knows a little bit better than others. He guessed “Jimi” when Hendrix was on, but I didn’t let him get away that easily, and made him pick whether it was Hendrix or Mr. Page, and he correctly guessed Hendrix. He’s still confused about singers and harmony. He can’t pick out the Eagles from CSNY or discern James Taylor from Paul’s solo stuff, but it’s a process. I sang the three different harmonies during different lines within Suite: Judy Blue Eyes for him so he could better hear each individual voice instead of just the blending melodies they made. Maybe this will mean something one day, maybe it won’t, but it is among the things I have to teach, so that’s what I do.

This morning, the day stretched before us, glorious and beautiful. Money limited our choices, but I knew there was fun to be had for almost nothing. We met his Dad down at Wallace Lake and had a contest to try to catch leaves as they blew off the trees en masse, which is more difficult and fun than you would think. We all laughed and raced around and had a good time. It was supposed to be a hike, but we ended up just screwing around and playing tag and doing the leaf thing over and over. He wanted to go down to the sandy part near the water – what we call “Minnow Pond” because of all the teeny fish that are in it in the summer. We were the only ones down there and it was really beautiful and peaceful.

D and I went to get him a haircut after that, which, yes, cost money, but really needed done. He was a really good boy in the chair and asked if we could lunch at nearby B-spot for lunch but I said no, and we went on home. I fixed him a grilled ham and muenster cheese sandwich, some grape tomatoes and the rest of the banana from breakfast he hadn’t manged to put away – understandable after a full cup of oatmeal with honey, dried cranberries and raisins, three pieces of bacon and a piece of toast. I put an entire head of cabbage through the shredder blade on the food processor and bagged up about half and the rest became my lunch to eat raw, with one of the sliced Thai peanut butter chicken breasts I had broiled yesterday cut up in it, a bunch of roasted peanuts, and a cider-honey dressing. I shall have this for lunch every day this week, I think, as long as it doesn’t produce a blockage. I’m really not supposed to ever eat anything like that because of my abbreviated plumbing, but I’ve never been perfect at doing everything exactly as you’re supposed to, and all my blockages to date (knock wood) have been partial and have eventually cleared on their own, only a few requiring hospitalization to deal with the resultant dehydration from the body trying 50 times a day to push that fucking piece of whatever – cabbage, lettuce, potato skin – on through my system.

After lunch, we set out for the Westlake library, which has a lovely, large kids’ area in the back, and we spent like an hour and a half there. We played puppets and made up voices (the kid is getting really good at accents), he did a bunch of puzzles and a computer “read” him Green Eggs and Ham, with some added fun stuff in if you clicked in the right places, while I picked out 8 different books for us to take home, most of them very, very early readers. He’s really interested RIGHT NOW in getting the reading thing, so I am on it like white on rice. Once those floodgates opened for me, I vaulted through books with lightning speed. I remember in 1st grade we got extra credit for every book we read on the classroom shelves, you had to fill in a simple, half-page paper stating the title and author and briefly, what it was about to prove you read it. I read every damned book in the room and the teacher got me books from the 2nd grade room to read. By 4th, the teacher felt bad that I was bored with the assigned reading and gave me books at 8th grade level. And so on.

After the library, we went over to Westlake rec center’s playground, where he swore he wasn’t interested in going and didn’t want to check out, but when I drove by it really slow, saying I just wanted to see what it was like for next time we were in the neighborhood, he insisted we stop. And then of course it was nearly impossible to get him to leave. I could see a good sledding hill directly behind it as well, and had a lovely long talk with a grandmother on the bench with me, who exclaimed with surprise when I told her I was too old to have any more, in answer to her question about future children, and said, “I though you were my daughter’s age – she’s 25.” Awww, shucks. That was nice to hear, and much-needed, as I watched my kid sprint all over this playground and successfully tackle every overhead bar in the “ladder” by himself for the first time – four times in a row. He will be sore tomorrow, I explained, and we talked about how it’s a good sore.

He wore himself out and fell asleep on the way back to our hood. I promised him I would stop and buy garlic bread to go with the spaghetti and meatballs dinner we were to have. He wouldn’t wake all the way up so I picked him up, all approximately 40 pounds of him, and carried him into the store, into the back where the garlic bread is, up to the front, paid with one hand and then back to the car. So that was my exercise for the day. My arms will be sore tomorrow too, a good sore.

Tonight as we took out the trash, he carried a big empty box for me and I had bags in both hands as we walked down the long driveway to the communal trash bins. This older blonde kid was with a few others nearby. I vaguely remembered hearing about this kid this past summer when D had been out trying to play with the kids here, as he is one of the few who isn’t Indian and is older than most of the other kids, I’m guessing maybe 9, as there had been some trouble with him coming after D and tickling him, which D did not like, and he had to be told not to do that. As we walked past the kids, D a few steps behind me with the big box in both hands, the kid took off like a shot towards D. “TICKLE MONSTER!” he screamed, and came at D and D looked at me and I could read it in his eyes: “Help, Mom, what do I do.” I turned around and roared at the kid with my Theater Voice, which you do not want to invoke unless you intend to. “BACK OFF” I said. “HE IS HELPING ME HERE AND BOTH HIS ARMS ARE FULL, CAN’T YOU SEE THAT? WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? HE DOESN’T LIKE THAT ANYWAY, SO YOU CAN JUST KNOCK IT OFF FOR GOOD, OK?” The kid just stood there kind of stunned and D and I kept moving, and he gave me a little smile. I had to calm down for a minute so I could speak to D calmly about it, so we just proceeded on to the trash and he helped me dump everything in. I asked him if he wanted to go a different way back to the apartment so we avoided seeing that kid and he said yes. So we had a nice, easygoing (and BOY it’s a good thing I’m an actor or it would not have been that easygoing otherwise) discussion, again, about how nobody, NO ONE, is EVER allowed to touch his body anywhere in any way that is unacceptable to him, himself, and that includes other kids, older kids, younger kids, adults, relatives, and even Mom and Dad. Nobody. It was a longer discussion than I will go into here, and he tied it back to the examples I’d given of lies people tell little kids to kidnap them and I applauded him drawing that conclusion while dying a little inside that it has to go this way. I also pointed out it’s a two-way street, and goes for anybody he ever touched as well, or anyone he might observe touching someone who protested – stop it means stop it, period. It’s kind of heartbreaking to have this kind of conversation with your five year old, but it seemed the right time. And if I ever hear that this blonde kid bothers my son again, I may be in jail.

After dinner and some silly thing he wanted to watch on TV, we had a brief dance party (he picked “Happy,” which he knows from the minion movies) and then on to teeth and story and bed. He read entire sentences in one of his new readers tonight. I have never seen him do that and it was hard to contain my excitement and awe. I don’t want to be one of those parents who praises their kid for every minor thing they do, but he’s really trying hard with this and doing a great job.

This was a good weekend.

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