I do terrible things to my 11-year-old son. You can tell by the way he rages and storms up the stairs whenever I so harshly mistreat him.
Like the (countless) time(s) I told him he must bathe. And that he was required to accomplish his cleansing on the same day I issued the order. And that I commanded him thusly because I want him to continue to have friends. Friends who can’t smell him coming.
OK, I don’t say the last bit. But I think he caught the scent of my meaning.
Ian has expressive language disorder. Which can come as quite a shock to people because he otherwise looks and acts (and acts and acts and acts) typically for his age. And, while Ian has expressive language disorder, he most emphatically does not have trouble expressing himself nonverbally.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way! And Ian has the will, alright, to communicate that I am an EEJIT of epic proportions who tortures my son by making him befriend warm, running water and soap.
The exhale of pure, unadulterated frustration from this child is tremendous. It is an expulsion of breath in one gigantic thrust that communicates more clearly than speech that personal hygiene is sky high on the List of Utterly Useless Things along with the likes of shoelaces, vegetables, and bedtimes. All of which mothers invented to make their boy children suffer.
I’m working on my villainous laugh.
It’s coming along swimmingly.
I also occasionally ask Ian to find his shoes. Immediately, the world ends in a fiery blaze of brilliant ranting and blinding rhetoric. “I’m NOT… I WON’T… GEEZ, Mom!” Those words are as clear and bright as a shiny, new bell.
Since my son owns so very few words, I find myself thinking a lot about them. Often, my thoughts drift to my parents who told me my words would be able to hurt or to heal, and I was the only one who would be able to choose how to wield them. And then I think about my son’s limited verbal quiver and how he does own words other than not, and won’t, and GEEZ!
You know what other words my little man has down? They are words he never uses in frustration, but which bare his soul; words he repeats almost constantly.
Ian says, “You pwoud of me, Mom?”
And the villainess inside of me melts like the wicked witch of the west, splashed with a bucket of dirty bath water.
He asks it over and over. Nearly every day, craving the assurance that I suspect all kids desire. “You pwoud of me, Mom?”
I tell him, “I’m proud of you all the time, Ian.” I’m proud of you when you create whole, articulate sentences. And I’m proud of you when you just can’t make words work. I’m proud of you when you’re an enormous, blustering, stinky oaf. And I’m proud of you when you appear, fresh from the shower, smelling like wet dog.
I’m proud of you when you blow off karate practice ’cause the neighbor boys need another soccer player. And I’m proud of you when you buckle down and practice your kata, even without your Papa Ono, because he called to tell you that Nana was sick and you have to do your pre-yellow-belt rehearsal on your own.
Yellow belt testing. A big, hurkin’ deal in your world.
And I’m proud of you that your response wasn’t the expulsion of breath. It was compassion. “I so sad for Nana. Nana’s not feewing good.” Because you might care a lot about your yellow belt, but you care about other people even more.
When I came home today to see your break-out accomplishment,…
…tackled without clear speech but with a pure heart, I was proud. So when you said, “You pwoud of me, Mom?” it was cake to reply, “So, so proud.”
But you know what, baby? If you ask me the very same question someday as you stomp up the stairs on your way to bath time, my response is still cake.
I’m so, so proud.
My pride in and love for you are like the sun and the moon. They chase each other in a never-ending circle across the sky, always blending one into the other, and I find myself unable to define where one stops and the other starts.
Pride is a strange beast. I used to think pride was conditional, situational, and case-by-case. Then I became a mom, and I learned that pride is like love. It’s all-encompassing, situationally unaware, and socially awkward.
In fact, pride and love are just like my 11-year-old boy.
They’re gangly. They have no earthly idea where their personal space ends. And, God knows, they don’t know their own force. Pride and love bumble along eagerly and enthusiastically, disrupting and muddying my attempts at order and reserve with their passion and recklessness.
And every once in a while, when I least suspect it, they clothesline me outta nowhere so I’m stunned to find myself on my back, breathless, awash with their pain and exhilaration.
Did I say already that pride is a strange beast? Because pride is a strange beast. I used to think pride was conditional, situational, and case-by-case.
Then I became a mom.