Almost 5 years ago to the minute, I delivered X-man. Born during the astrological sign a pisces, he's in the awesome company of Albert Einstein, Michelangelo and Dr. Seuss. He's supposed to be creative, understanding, introverted and romantic. He's supposed to see how he wants life to be rather than how it is. In other words, his fair talent for denial makes a lot of sense.
Over the last 5 years, I've gotten used to these ebbs and flows of raw emotion. During his 2s and 3s, he hit me, bit me and screamed in my face -- a lot. I tried redirection, time outs, talking things out, and yes -- sometimes screaming back in his face to try to get through to him that none of this was good behavior. Because, dammit, no 2 year old is allowed to have steak knife. I don't care if the lady at the restaurant had it rolled up in a napkin for you with the rest of your utensils or not. Finally, I learned that when I got to my brink, I just needed to walk away. I took a mommy time out, so I could come back and try again. And the weirdest thing happened, he followed me.
Or, more realistically, threw himself onto my legs and cried, "Don't leave me!" And there were times, dear readers, that my heart broke and I gave in and reached down to hold him and comfort him, and he screamed at me some more, which was not the response I was anticipating. Or, he'd say those words and then hit me and call me a bad mother for walking away. And I'd remove him from my leg, shut my bedroom door and listen to him throwing his little body against it screaming, "I'm sorry. Let me in. I'm sorry. Let me in!" Maybe you had this with your child, too. In my heart, I always thought it was because he and I were alone so often. Other kids are motivated by food, TV, rewards -- mine is motivated only by removing myself from his manipulation. But in this entire world, I was always going to be there and vice versa. As much as we loved MacTroll, we couldn't count on him to be around for anything.
It was hard.
Then the lack of self confidence kicked in last summer, so I started looking into the idea of martial arts as a confidence booster. We started at HMD Academy in Savoy in August, and we attended 2 times a week through November and then 3 times a week December through January. Starting in January after earning his yellow belt, X-man started having stomach aches before every Tae Kwon Do class. He didn't want to go. He'd whine and complain, and say things like he wished "Tae Kwon Do was never invented." I'd tell him sick people go home and go to bed. He'd say he was fine to play, but no fine for TKD. When I talked to him about quitting, he'd laugh it off and say that he was just joking ALL THOSE TIMES he said he didn't feel well. So I went into Master Hyong the last week in January and asked to only come twice a week. And that worked -- for a week. And then the complaining started again.
We missed the week that we were in Paris, and after we came back, X-man was home sick the day of class and then on the day of that Friday class, he begged me not to take him. This week was the same thing, so I told him if he didn't go, I needed to e-mail Master Hyong and tell him that we were done, because I had agreed with Master Hyong that we weren't just going to come and go. We needed to commit and go, or stop. X-man agreed it was time to take a break.
Today, 3 days later after I sent the e-mail, at Navy Pier we went to the Build-a-Bear store. He picked out a baby blue bear with pink peace signs all over it. He dressed it in a Tae Kwon Do uniform that came with all the different color belts you could earn.
Then tonight, he was too over stimulated from his big birthday to sleep. I tucked him in, but he snuck out of bed and tried to play legos. An uncoordinated jump off his toy box made him smack his head on the Lego table. He cried. I held him, then I tucked him back into bed. He was in the hall crying about not being able to go to sleep less than 2 minutes later. So he brought his new Build-a-Bear into my bed (a rare instance these days).
When comfortable in my bed, he asked if he could go see Master Hyong and go back to Tae Kwon Do tomorrow. I told him we'd see how he felt about it tomorrow. And if he still felt this way, we'd need to have a conversation with Master Hyong first. Because we couldn't just go back and forth on a decision. He cried a bit about missing his teacher.
Then it hit me that it hit him. Here was a male role model in his life that he saw 2-3 days a week, every week for 7 months. He adores Master Hyong. He just didn't want to work so hard at Tae Kwon Do, but the two come together. It's a package deal, and I think he mourns not having that connection in his life. Because let's face it, he doesn't get a lot of uncle or grandfather time elsewhere. His teachers are all females, and the other parents he sees are all females. And I suddenly wanted to sign him up for some kind of big brother program.
When I got him calmed down, he hugged his little bear to his chest and said, "Mommy, I think I love you."
"No. I love you. No matter what. I love you."
He gave me a hug and then 3 minutes later he fell asleep clutching his bear. My five year old suddenly looked so much younger and smaller. And I remember not that long ago, sitting up in a hospital room, looking at him all wrapped up in a blanket with a little bloody hat on his head thinking that he was a total mystery to me.
"How many dozens of ways am I going to completely fuck this up?" I thought. Then I leaned over, as I did tonight, and whispered into his sleeping ear, "I promise I will always love you, and I will do my best to not screw this up too badly."
I closed my eyes, kissed his forehead and tried to ignore the two tears falling down each of my cheeks. In both of these moments, I'm quite aware that I, alone, am not enough.
(And if you're wondering where MacTroll is tonight. He's in the guest room. He inherited my fever and chills and cough and cold from last week.)