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The Pre-Teen RAD

I am parenting a pre-teen RAD. By parenting, I mean keeping alive. And by pre-teen RAD, I mean sociopath. Because is there honestly a more difficult combination than Reactive Attachment Disorder and pre-pubescence? I cannot begin to imagine a worse combination, a more deadly mixture that could wreak this kind of havoc on a family! I mean, do I love this kid? Yes (thinks the tiny voice inside my heart that’s currently being bound and gagged by my humanity), but do I like this kid? Nope. Not even a little bit. Not right now.

Judge if you need to, I’m okay with it! My skin has become far too calloused from the past several months of lies and rants, tantrums and rages. I no longer carry the ability to feel “judged” by my peers. It’s kinda like when you reach a certain age and you can convert to leggings and the messy bun (every day for every occasion) – you just sort of quit. Well, that’s how I feel about parenting my son. I am the legging-wearer, the messy bun, the “screw the make-up” kind of mom now… and there may be no turning back!

And these are the reasons why:

Normal pre-teens have crushes, even going as far as to carry the “boyfriend/girlfriend” label for sometimes a week at a time! Whereas my pre-teen? The only girl he notices is his sister, and that’s only because he threatens to murder her in her sleep if she doesn’t empty out her piggy bank to him on a weekly basis.

Normal pre-teens have hobbies or sports and try to appear “cool” – to fit in – to be popular. My pre-teen is as coordinated as a sloth on roller skates, so sports are out. And I don’t know how he does it, but he can’t even make breathing appear anything but painfully awkward. He hates everything and only attempts to make a go at an activity if he might get paid to do so. He literally must be bribed financially to play with children!

Normal pre-teens look forward to school dances and after-school parties. My pre-teen plots ways to steal from those children while they’re busy socializing with friends.

Normal pre-teens start paying attention to the way they look, smell, and act around their peers. My pre-teen still only showers one side of himself, still can’t figure out how a comb works, refuses to wear an outfit combination that could even be considered remotely attractive, and often smells like a garbage truck…. Probably because he refuses to brush and floss his teeth, leaving weeks worth of food and plaque globbed between his braces.

Normal pre-teens plan for summer camp. My pre-teen plans for the psych ward.

Normal pre-teens get a pet and start learning the responsibilities of caring for another creature. My pre-teen kills or harms most animals he comes in contact with. If this is a sign of his nurturing skills, we may have to have him sterilized!

Now, those parents who do not have a RAD child are probably sitting back right now saying that only a terrible mother would right such horrific things about their own child! Eh, perhaps. But I look around and say that I would be a terrible human being if I didn’t warn the rest of the public of my child. I mean, in the words of Antoine Dodson, “hide your kids, hide your wives”, right? This is my due diligence to society… even if I don’t happen to have a wildly popular social media rant-turned-rap in my back pocket!

But for those of you who DO have a child with RAD, I can actually hear your Amens ringing loud and clear across the nation. I feel them in my soul as we stand together and say that parenting a pre-teen RAD is quite possibly the most exhaustingly heart-wrenching thing, the most tediously frustrating thing, the most frightening love-hate thing that has ever, ever been.

So, when you see me, bear with me. Don’t mind my dirty house, my broken objects, or the screaming child coming from the upstairs bedroom. Don’t worry when my child bangs on the car windows motioning for other vehicles to save him from his “abusive family”. Pay no attention to whispers of inappropriate conversation escaping my son’s mouth – the screams, the threats, the hate and disrespect for women…

My mind is now oatmeal, and my ability to carry on a conversation while watching for my child seek out his next victim is basically gone. If I smile maniacally, it is because my resting face is translated to my son that I am in fighting mode. And if I hyperventilate in your presence, I apologize… chances are I’ve been holding my breath until bedtime when I am finally free to ingest air again.

And to all of you other pre-teen RAD mamas and papas out there… my heart is with you. If you’ve kept your child alive, you are my heroes. And if you haven’t, I totally get it. Here’s to 7 more glorious years! (Oh, sweet Lord almighty…)

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The Toddler, The Terror

So, I have this toddler. He will be 3 next month. And from what I’m told, 3 is a million times worse than 2 – it is, in a sense 2 perfected. Friends, this a thought that sends chills down my spine. Because I gotta tell ya, 2 has basically sucked eggs. Don’t believe me? Just read it for yourself!

Potty Training

This kid does NOT want to stop peeing in his diaper. Like, not at all. Putting my child on the toilet either leads to screaming bloody murder, flushing the toilet 27 times, or giving himself an erection – making it virtually impossible to pee anyhow. In fact, this child arouses himself basically every time his diaper comes unhooked! Now, whereas I try to discourage this behavior without shaming him, part of me wants to scream, “YOU’RE GOING TO YANK IT OFF AND PEOPLE ARE GOING TO THINK I’M A BAD MOTHER!!!!”

But instead, my kid sits there, beaming proudly at his accomplishment of making his weenie big, saying things like, “Mama! I DID it! That’s the biggest butt I ever seen!” (Because we still call our weenie a butt. Obviously, I’m going to have to homeschool my child because we are never going to be ready for kindergarten at this rate. I mean, yesterday I caught him eating a dead fly… come on!)

This week, however, I developed a Paw Patrol sticker chart. Each time he pees on the big boy potty, he gets a sticker on the chart. If he poops, he gets 2 stickers and a parade in his honor. Once each row is filled up with stickers representing his bathroom escapades, he gets candy… and yes, I am bribing my child with copious amounts of sugar. Judge me if you will, but it’s better than constant masturbation in my eyes, so your judgments mean nothing. Just saying.

We’ve had a decent amount of success with the sticker chart, although he gets awfully irrational when I don’t give him a sticker every time someone else in the house uses the restroom. After all, this isn’t a joint effort here! It’s certainly not worth the tantrums that ensue. Speaking of which…

Tantrums

Last week I missed half of my grandmother’s funeral because I had to remove my screaming/hitting/kicking son from the funeral home and literally drag him outside to the back of the building (using emergency exits that thankfully didn’t sound any alarms when I opened them). There I sat on the damp concrete in my black dress, showing all kinds of granny panty, as my kid threw rocks and screamed at the top of his lungs every time I looked in his direction. I wept like the worn-out mother that I am, silently cursing the child that I GAVE BIRTH TO and his erratic behavior that came from me. My other kids that I adopted? I don’t have to take ownership for their issues… but this kid is all mine from the DNA to the horrid behavior.

I felt like a failure for the billionth time that day.

Especially when the casket delivery man arrived and informed me that our hysterics were blocking his path to the storage room. I looked at him with racoon-smeared eyes and picked up my flailing child, trying to walk to a new location as my high heel broke underneath the weight of the two of us.

Later that day I threw my shoes away.  We repeated our tantrums and disciplines again and again for days and days – in restaurants, at the funeral luncheon, in the car, and in the house. I’m learning to view this new routine my son and I are in like I would a wild horse. We are constantly trying to break the stallion’s crazed spirit so that he can become an animal capable of fitting in with the rest of the tamed herd that is society.

It’s just not working. Yet. Which leads me to the horribleness that is the final toddler topic for today’s post…

Nap Inconsistencies

As if dealing with the little maniac all day isn’t hard enough, my child is starting to break free of his previously consistent nap schedule. THIS, my friends, may be the death of me. Because after hours of cycling this boy on and off the potty, correcting tantrums, and cleaning up the giant-sized toddler messes that he leaves in his wake, this mama is READY for naptime! That was the deal. He can act like a colossal turd for some of the day if he must, but that means I get a couple hours of reprieve in the afternoon. But now, my son is struggling to hold up his end of the bargain and I find myself crying hysterically by dinner time.

My older kids are so frightened of my hazzardness that they don’t question me when I pack lunches that consist of 3 jellos and a peanut butterless PB&J sandwich. They see the crazy unfolding before their very eyes and I believe they pity me. But if we’re looking for silver linings, they have both informed me within the last week that they will never have sex because they are scared of having children.

So there’s a parenting win.

But seriously, this child is making my brain homicidal. I mean, I am walking around like a full-fledged Lewis Black impersonator all day long, grunting out strings of nonsensical words with barely a breath to speak them.

And then, minutes later, this same kid comes up to me and tells me he loves me so much. And then we load up his dump trucks with all his farm animals and pretend to take them to the jungle… until his toy crocodile comes along and destroys all the animals and fake-chomps the truck to bits. And for some reason, this makes my son very happy and cuddly. So, we sit and hunker down in a good snuggle amidst the carnage that was his plastic livestock.

In the moment, these day to day things feel so stinking insurmountable. This stage feels like it will last forever. And I know in my heart of hearts that it won’t. But if you say that to me, I’m liable to bite your head off, cry, and then apologize (you’ve been forewarned). I know deep down that my children will all grow up and be somewhat functional in society, hopefully potty-trained, and I will no longer have the need to make crocodile sounds.

I’m told this will be a sad day. We’ll see. Either way, this moment will pass. In the meantime, I will continue to talk my brain off the ledge of insanity each day, being as consistent as possible, and attempt to be more mindful while packing lunches for the big ones. Sometimes Hope means believing that one day, life may just be boring.

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"My Favorite Person"

Recently, Cameron has been getting into writing. Naturally, I encourage this as much as possible. I love to see him get excited about something that he and I can do together. Don’t get me wrong, his love for all things John Deere, constructing things out of random scraps, and building intricate Lego creations are wonderful in their own way. I know that his level of creativity has grown exponentially because of each of these hobbies.

Even with Cameron being on the swim team this season was something new for me. I had never did much with swimming and couldn’t have told you the name of any stroke other than the Doggy Paddle… (PS, they don’t actually use that stroke in swimming. Apparently that’s just used for toddlers to keep themselves afloat… Well, toddlers and people like me.) So, I did rather enjoy watching him compete and cheering for him (loudly) as he raced to be his previous times in each heat.

Taylor has always been so good at gymnastics. And whereas I never excelled past a certain level in that area, it was familiar to me and I found that I could help her with many of the skills. Taylor also has a love for music. She’s no Celine Dion or anything, but she has really worked hard to improve her singing, and I can truly get behind that!

But writing…. That’s my passion. And even though Cameron cannot verbally tell a story to save his life, his words come out so much more clear and concise when he writes. I love watching how his grammar skills are developing and seeing him practice new vocabulary words in ways that are “unique” at times.

So, when Cameron came home from school a couple of weeks ago, he was pumped to show me his most recent writing project. After reading the first paragraph, I could see why he was so excited for me to read his work. He entitled it “My Favorite Person”, and he specifically asked me if I thought it was good enough to put on my blog.

You guys… the look on his face when I told him that I would most definitely “publish” his work, well, it was priceless! The look of pride and satisfaction that he had done something well, something that I would put online for all to see – I would happily post anything he wrote if it would increase his self-esteem like that again!

So, without further delay, I give you a Cameron Costa original, “My Favorite Person”.

By Cameron Costa

 

The sweetness, am I right?!? I’m encouraging, I give advice, I have a “lovely personality” (someone’s gonna have to teach my kid that that’s code for “butt ugly”), I’m nice, and I’m generous because I allow him to eat and give him shelter. I mean, either his standards are ridiculously low, or this is the cutest writing from a 4th grade boy to his mother EVER.

  And can we just take a moment to love the last sentence?

“My mom is my role modle and personality Also, she is genaras.”

That one right there has ALL the loves written all over it! You know you’re doing something right when your kid puts it in print for the internet, right?

#GraceInParenting

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Raising Cows

Well, we’ve had some recent concerns about our oldest son. Due to a few behavioral observations, we decided to have some testing done and, as it turns out, our worst fears were confirmed.

Our son is part-cow.

There, I said it. It feels so good not to have to hide it any longer! I mean, it’s been tough living in a bi-mammal home. All the mooing was really starting to affect our family dynamic. And then PETA began sending us letters, which got really uncomfortable. Even our local farmer, bless his heart, offered to take him off our hands. But how could we send our own son out to pasture? He’s not resourceful enough and would never make it on his own. He struggles to make friends as it is, and the other cows would just shun him because he looks different… So, we’ve decided to try our hardest and love him, despite his obvious cowness.

Now, if you read that and think that I’m the nutty one, you should hear my son cry. Each and every time this child gets corrected, he moos himself into a tizzy! Quite literally, this kid will moo until he makes himself throw up. It’s been going on for years, but as all parents are aware, Christmas break is really freaking long. It was several weeks of continuous bovine noises and, well, we just cannot stand it for another second! I mean, if we had a barn, I’m pretty sure he’d be banished there every time he starts up. Instead of sending him to his room, I could send him to his stall (which would really cut down on the headaches for the rest of us).

Last night was no different. Cameron was once again being sent to bed early for touching things that were not his. This habit of his falls somewhere on the Normal Boy – RAD Boy Spectrum. When told not to touch something, he waits for unsuspecting victims to leave the room, or tired grandparents to fall asleep, and then he touches the very thing he was told not to touch (this is also usually followed by an elaborate, yet insufficient, cover-up of some sort).

Exhibit A- The mysteriously broken blood-pressure cuff at my parents’ house this Christmas break. The very room where Cameron was sleeping was the very room the cuff laid hidden away…. UNTIL, that is, Cameron found it and ripped it apart.

Exhibit B- At the same house during the same break, Cameron turned my mother’s oven on to self-cleaning mode while she was attempting to bake her pumpkin pie.

Exhibit C- At our home this break, Cameron used his Dad’s drill bits. For what? We don’t know. Where they’re at now? No one will ever find out. Nor will we find his work gloves that Cameron insists on using and then not putting back, no matter how many times we tell him to stop.

And finally, that brings us to Exhibit D. The grand finale, if you will. My husband’s mother was watching Cameron at her house for us this weekend and, the poor woman fell asleep for 20 minutes. (Twenty. Minutes.) During this time, Cameron turned the temperature in her refrigerator all the way down. AGAIN. (This is the 4th occurrence!) A fridge full of food, once crisp and fresh, now lies sour and warm.

As you could well imagine, this was the breaking point. He was given 10 minutes to get ready for bed and was told that lights would be out and sleep would be occurring or he would be in trouble.

And then the mooing began.

“Cameron,” my husband warned sternly. “Enough. There will be no mooing tonight. Do whatever you have to do to keep yourself under control. Hold your pillow over your mouth, take deep breaths, get a drink of water, whatever. But under no circumstances will we listen to you moo for the next 3 hours until you make yourself puke. Do you understand?”

My cow-child inhaled sharply and then mooed again.

“CAMERON. Stop immediately.” My husband, to his credit, was trying to keep himself under control as best as he could… but this mooing thing, it really is the proverbial straw that breaks the cow’s back.

Cameron continued to moo and my husband glared at him with dark, menacing eyes. It was a look that let Cameron know that one more moo could very possibly get him put down – sent to that final farm up in the sky.

Cameron choked on some more sobs and made some more weird, guttural noises as he stared back, unsure of what to do (well, I’m not sure why he was unsure… he was told to get ready for bed no less than 25 times, but I didn’t interject. I just watched, wishing I had a tub of popcorn and a snuggie to take in the show).

Finally, Cameron gave just enough attitude to test the waters, but not enough to get him grounded for the next century.

“What! What are you staring at?” Followed by a half-moo-sob-combo.

And then we were done.

“YOU, CAMERON!!! I’M STARING AT YOU! DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY I’M STARING AT YOU, SON? IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE MOOING LIKE A FARM ANIMAL!!!! YOU DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO STARE AT YOU? THEN START ACTING LIKE A HUMAN BEING! I’M NOT MOOING AND NO ONE IS STARING AT ME!!!!” This was said with such flourish that I was positive my husband’s arm gestures would knock over a chair at the very least!

Cameron immediately mooed ridiculously and ran from the room, up the steps, and finally into his bedroom. My husband’s face was red and he stood there looking like a bull ready to charge. I, on the other hand, was so close to hysteria that it was palpable. But I needed to keep myself composed until all children were out of earshot. I chewed on my cheek and took a few deep breaths.

Once I was certain we were alone, in my best mocking voice I mimicked, “I’m not mooing and no one is staring at me!” And then I collapsed into a heap of giggles. Because, honestly, it was the weirdest statement I can ever remember hearing a parent make. And because who in the world has to tell their son to stop mooing? I mean, seriously! My husband was displaying equal amusement and joined me in my laughter, as our cow uttered muffled moos in the background. (PS, if you just got the pun in there, you are truly my people.)

I gave The Hubs a high-five. “Best parenting moment ever, right there! And by the way, I’m sooo gonna blog about this.”

So, there you have it. We are a dysfunctional family on most days. We raise children, dogs, and apparently cows and bulls. We are often loud and usually require time-outs. But as long as we can laugh, I think it’s going to all turn out OK in the end.

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The Fourth Grade Boy

When we think of our children, we naturally categorize them in some way, don’t we? Male, female, tomboy, athletic, bookworm, confident, passive, musical, clumsy, energetic, hands-on, impulsive, sensitive, a good sleeper/bad sleeper, a sweet-tooth, a health nut, outgoing, introvert, baby, toddler, child, pre-teen, teenager, adult…. and a million other titles that children may fall under.

But I fear that our culture has greatly overlooked one particular child. This kid lies somewhere between child and pre-teen, between fully male and fully female, between confident, clumsy, defiant, weepy, entitled, cuddly, brash and awkward.

This child is called The Fourth Grade Boy.

And do you want to know why this creature is such a conundrum? It’s because the world prepares parents for the sleepless nights of babies and the terrible-twos and the teenage years, leaving unsuspecting Moms and Dads all across the world to look at the childhood stage as a phase of rest. But, those parents of The Fourth Grade Boy… they know better.

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It all started at the end of August. The school bus was pulling up to the house after the kids’ first day back from the seemingly endless summer break. I watched as my second-grade daughter emerged from the bus, purple book bag on her back, outfit perfectly cutesy, smiling from ear to ear. Her little bob bounced as she skipped to me with the enthusiasm of an elf.

And then The Fourth Grade Boy stepped off the bus… and I swallowed a chuckle. Was he striding? Since when does my son have “swag”? Or perhaps the better question is, since when does my son THINK he has “swag”?

It was evident by the cocky smile, one-shouldered carrying of the book bag, and the shuffle of his feet. As they approached the drive where I stood holding a toddler that screamed with glee as if it were Christmas morning every time he sees a school bus, I asked the usual question: How was your day?

The second grader blurted out long streams of prattling, followed by a short inhale of breath, and then another long prattle. The Fourth Grade Boy, on the other hand, had only one reply:

“Fourth grade is sooo easy. I got this.”

And then he sauntered away.

From that moment, there has been an awkward awakening of things inside my child. I think the awakening’s name is Hormones, but I can’t be sure. For a full semester, I’ve watched this creature come home from school, sometimes striding, sometimes walking clumsily (now that’s the child I know), turn on his favorite show, Paw Patrol (which also happens to be the favorite show of our toddler), and roll his toy trucks all over the floor…while quietly singing the lyrics to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back.

This “child” wants to color with me in his coloring book, and then shoot his bow and arrow. He wants to make toy cars out of cardboard boxes to pull his stuffed animals around, and then asks to watch a PG-13 movie. He cooks pretend food with the baby’s kitchen set, and then talks to me about the conversation he had with a kid in his class about sex.

This Fourth Grade Boy is a creature all of his own. He wants to be a young boy, but he wants to be a man. He thinks girls are gross, but he can’t stop talking about them. He still likes his Superman pajamas, but he only wants the “RIGHT kind of tennis shoes”. He is equally embarrassed by girls’ love notes as he is flattered by them… and then he is embarrassed by his feelings of flattery. He knows everything (or so he thinks) yet he can’t prove it on his homework to save his life. He tries to talk tough, only to pronounce the words wrong and sound even younger than he is.

The Fourth Grade Boy yells at his mother, tries out swear words and inappropriate hand gestures, bullies others to fit in with the “cool kids”, and is very concerned about the word “titties” all of a sudden. Yet, this same child falls into a pile of sobs when he is corrected. Sobs that last forever, proving that teenage girls are possibly NOT the most dramatic people on the planet.

And only The Fourth Grade Boy would put this combination of things on his Christmas list for Santa (who yes, we still believe in): Drum set, quad, Thomas the Train set, trampoline, talking stuffed dog, a picture of Santa’s reindeer, and a real front loader truck. It was like asking for beer out of a sippy cup! I was so confused, I can only imagine how Santa felt…

This is not just my Fourth Grade Boy, either. I have nephews. I have friends with fourth graders. Some days these children are cuddling up to their parents on the couch, and some days they’re practicing their independence by refusing a hug in public. It’s like being a little boy is no longer satisfying, but being a pre-teen is too exhausting. So they swap back and forth like rapid fire, taking breaks from their dreams of all the Brittany’s and Riley’s of the world to play in the sandbox with dump trucks.

This category of child is awkward, yet tries so hard to be cool – won’t brush their teeth or comb their hair, but HAS to wear the right length of pants or life is over – wants to be treated like an adult, but still needs a smack on the butt from time to time.

The Fourth Grade Boy, in all his confusing ways, is asking if it’s still OK to be little sometimes.

I think fifth grade is the time of pre-teen, and third grade was the time of being a child. Mamas, this means that fourth grade… it just might be our last shot at playdough towers and crafts. He may no longer want to play Barbies with his sister (even though he totally does it wrong… I mean, who brings a truck with a crane to the Barbie Mansion, anyway?), may no longer be happy making bracelets out of rubber bands, he will probably soon say good-bye to playing dress up with old Halloween costumes, and mother-son dances will involve less and less dancing between the mother and the son.

Fourth grade, with all it’s frustrations and transitions, may be the end of our little boys.

Not that big boys are bad. I mean, we have first girlfriends to look forward to, teaching our sons to dance without looking like epileptics in front of their buddies, helping Dads work on the car or the mower, ER visits after using real tools instead of play ones goes south, hair in all kinds of places, buying their first sticks of deodorant, going somewhere in public unsupervised (God help us all)…

Mamas, I think we will make it. We will somehow survive this weird stage and we will make the adjustment to Mamas of Pre-Teens… But I’m going to try to hold onto my own Fourth Grade Boy just a little bit longer. It may just be the last time he asks to be held.

Last year's Mother-Son Dance

Last year's Mother-Son Dance

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