Dear Non-Spanking Parents,
So what do you do when your kid gets a little too big for his or her britches?
Yesterday, my son turned nine. Today, he thinks he's a grown ass man. I love him, so much. He is clever and funny and snugly. He's a great climber and a fantastic imaginer. His mind is sharp and his insights astute- usually these are great attributes, but every once in a while that quick wit turns into a wicked-sharp tongue and he lets his mouth get the better of him. For a little context, he weighs 60lbs (he's like a less than a third of me on a good day) but, we've decided not to use corporal punishment (though once in a long while an egregious offense will warrant a spanked bottom in our house- not saying whose) so generally, my size doesn't help me in the area of discipline. Nope, we're evolved parents who apparently "know better" than to damage our children with the type of disciplinary actions our parents doled out.
Just last week my husband and I rented a cabin with friends and after a few mugs of spiked cocoa we all got to talking about what our parents did to us. I divulged the time when my oh-so-brave 17-year old self mouthed off to my mom. For more context, I was about the size I am now and my mom has always been a very little woman, maybe 5'2'' (Don't feel too badly for her, she packs a mean passive aggressive punch.) So as I was verbally disrespecting the woman who labored for 33 hours to bring me into this world (can you tell that my own motherhood has slightly altered my perspective on things?) she threatened, "If you don't shut your mouth I'm going to break it!" I, of course, with my brown lip liner, concussion-tight, high pony-tail and too-fitted RL Polo shirt, was a senior pulling straight A's without trying, had the vocabulary of a 30 year old adjunct professor, and was not afraid of my 5'2'' mother. I know you're cringing, I know.This is where that time machine hot tub would have come in handy (1- to take me back to prevent my 17-year old self from saying what I was about to say and 2- to soothe my butt if I didn't make it in time.) But, no one did stop me from opening my stupid mouth and saying, (this is now playing back in slow-mo in my mind) "then..break..it." I think something must have happened between the time when I saw my tiny mother swing on me and when I came to, looked around and found myself landed on the kitchen floor against the washing machine (yes, our washing machine was in the kitchen- this was a rent-controlled, project apartment in Queens. No, we didn't have a dryer, we just laid our clothes on the radiators until they were crispy and smelled like whatever mom was cooking that day - arroz con pollo: good, bacalao- a pungent salted codfish: bad. You get what you get and you don't get upset.) Something definitely happened in that moment- she put me on notice that, at least for the remaining 9 months until I went off to college to do, whatever the hell it was I ended up doing, I was in her house. Mom's street-cred was reestablished and I knew that if she had to, she could take me out. It didn't fix all of our problems, and arguably, it didn't fix any at all, but, then again, I never tried to talk to her that way again.
So yesterday I heard my mom knit-picking at my son. He was already in a bad mood, for only God knows what reason. I think his 9-year old boy period was starting or something and every little request sent him off into a rant of 'why me?'s. I had asked him to do something, he fussed and I informed him of what the consequence would be. My mother, not satisfied with my lack of guilt tripping and snarky commenting, decided to chime in. The back and forth between the 64 year old and the 9 year old ensued and ended with him storming out of the kitchen. I asked him what was wrong and he literally turned into a character from "The Wire"
The conversation went exactly like this:
Me: What happened in there?
Tiny Boy: It's grandma, she's always getting me upset.
Me: Well, did you try to talk to her about it? You can use kind words to explain how you feel.
(and here's where the change happened- voice deep, scowl on his face, arms splayed in wide fury and invitation of conflict; has he been dipping into my secret stash of movies: Juice, Carlito's Way, New Jack City?)
Tiny Gangster: I don't know why she gotta be all up in my business!
Tiny Gangster: She's always talking trash... (he let his voice trail off, which was scarier than if he had punctuated the statement. Was he planning on making an example of his grandmother in front of all of her senior, nagging friends?)
In the end, I made some firm remarks about how to speak respectfully to and about his grandmother, but I walked away somewhere between stunned and in silent hysterics. This kid is no walk in the park. It was almost as bad as the time he was misbehaving in church and I quietly whispered, in a menacing tone "I would like you to change what you're doing" and he dead-pan responded "I would like to not smell your breath right now."
So, what do you think? Should I post this on one of those sweet parenting/"ask a natural mommy" blogs? No, I didn't think so.
So, I'm thinking I need a new plan, cause no gangster I ever met sat in time out.
At this rate, I fully expect my 4 year old daughter to declare, (with her 4-year old lisp) "snitches get stitches bitches" next time someone tattles on her.
mother of a little-man-on-fire