“There is no way…I mean like one chance in a billion…a billion to one possibility…that I am ever going to ask for help.” So saith my son…he’s a little bit independent. This lovely and encouraging quotation came at the end of what can only be called a verbal altercation between the two of us; an altercation that started when I told him not to slide off the couch and land on the dog…which he did anyway. Because he couldn’t stop himself once he had started. Though he tried not to land fully on the much beleaguered (and always underfoot) dog. We will skip the part where I failed to calmly and firmly correct the disobedience and instead turned into a raving lunatic banshee and get straight to the part where we talked out what each of us should have done differently. First and foremost: he has to obey whether or not he wants to or thinks what we have instructed is the best course. In fact, once he realized that he could not recover from his slide off the couch, he could have asked for help. (That’s where the above quotation fits in, by the way.) We ended the moment taking turns looking up words in the dictionary – hyperbolize, for one. I assured him that I love him…and that if he cannot obey, he will be punished. He was calm and chastened…and I left the room feeling like a failure because of the whole return of the banshee thing. Ah parenting. So rewarding.
But what really struck me was his reaction to the idea of letting someone help him fix his problems. I’m not sure that anyone could have captured that aspect of Ethan any better that his own statement did – and I’m not even sure it is hyperbole…. There really is only a one in a billion chance that he’ll ask for help. I mean, I’ve known him for ten years, and it hasn’t happened yet…. Even on the few occasions when it has happened (because, you know, I’ve been known to hyperbolize a time or two myself), he doesn’t actually accept the help that is offered. The sheer dogged determination that he was born with is exhausting…and often overwhelming for all of us. If he can harness it and point it in a worthwhile direction, he will accomplish so much…if I don’t squash him in a fit of pique in the meantime. But how do I make our family be about something other than the overwhelmingness that is Ethan? Or that is me, since many of you are smirking and thinking that anyway…. Or that is chemo, for that matter. How do the comparatively calm and laid back members of the family make themselves heard? Well, in our case, the get really sweet – you know, kind of annoyingly sweet – right in the midst of storm and then wait till everything is calm to stage their own nutty. It’s awesome. We take turns, see? So there is always some sort of insanity going on. Parenting. So rewarding.
Oh shit. Now it occurs to me that I am going to offend someone because I am not appropriately thankful for the opportunity to parent. I mean, I knew the banshee thing might be offensive and worrisome – it worries me – but I almost forgot the offense of not being grateful. And yes, my tongue is in my cheek…sort of…because I’m also being serious. It is offensive to see someone take their blessings for granted…even when the blessings come with difficulties. My kids told me the other day that I should let them have something they wanted because it was easy. I told them that “easy” went away forever the day we decided to have children. Kara, horrified, said, “You mean you didn’t want us?” Of course not! I said “decided” – children are a blessing and I love them and cherish the responsibility to them…but it is hard. Everyday, something is difficult. Maybe it’s the fact that I have to say no even though it would be more fun to say yes, or it’s that they are in a cussed mood and nothing satisfies them…or that I am. Maybe it is that they are having a hard time academically, socially or emotionally. Maybe it is that someone is sick and my plans get torpedoed. Then there are the little irritations of the sheer number of lost, broken, scattered, and ruined things all over the house. We were organized once upon a time…. But now we have two more people in the house with us. And there is nothing I like more than people. Even when they make me crazy. Because when I step back, they are so much more precious than any thing I can think of. So yes. Parenting. So rewarding.
But please God…banish the banshee…amen.