Letting Go Apparently Isn’t that Hard

So this morning I overslept about 20 minutes. Usually I get up at 6:15 in order to get Pseudonymous Kid to school by 7:55: I get up, I go flip on his light and talk to him, I maybe get the coffee going if my husband hasn’t done it already. I get PK’s clothes and toss them at him; he gets dressed under the blanket. I make him a cup of tea, I make the coffee for me. I bring his cup of tea into the living room. If he’s gotten dressed (this week he’s been pretty good about it), I make his lunch, then we hang out and chit-chat over tea and coffee for a bit. At about 7:15ish I remind him to go brush his teeth and get his shoes on; at about 7:35-45 he hops on his bike.

That’s been this week, which has been awesome. Before Christmas break, I was far more likely to wake PK by talking/pulling him into an upright enough position that I could pick him up (he currently weighs a little over 77 lbs) and carry him into the living room, where I would deposit him on the couch and he’d curl up under a blanket with his head on a pillow–but at least in the living room I can see him and keep chanting “get up, get dressed” as I walk back and forth and make his lunch. This week he’s been much more self-starting and we’ve agreed that since he hates the constant nagging, I will forego it as long as he gets himself moving at a reasonable pace.

This morning, however, like I said, I overslept. And he was a lot groggier than he has been. Obviously we’ve both had a couple of nights where we were up a little later than we ought to have been, last night in particular. I offered to carry him to the living room: no. More negotiating/pleading. I offer to help him get dressed: no. I offer to make him a cup of tea: no, then yes. I ask him to get dressed while I’m making it: no.

“Look, I overslept a bit. I need you to cooperate here.”

“Exactly. YOU overslept. It’s YOUR fault. Why do I have to make up for it.”

This seems to be the emerging theme of PK’s nascent adolescence. And it’s kind of annoying. I got mad and said something pissy about how that would be fine if he lived in a goddamn vacuum, but he doesn’t.

“Okay, fine. Get yourself up and off to school.” I stand up and leave the room. I turn around as I reach the doorway with an afterthought. “Oh, and I’m going to put the water on for your tea. Which is apparently the kind of thing you do think it’s okay to be interdependent about.”

Digression: yep, apparently I am that kind of a mom. My authority is primarily verbal, and while I can definitely leverage a certain amount of intimidation (“Mama, you are scary when you’re mad”), for the most part his stubbornness and my reluctance to just whip out the “BECAUSE I SAID SO GODDAMNIT” speech (which is probably why it’s effective when I do) means that I pull a lot of this martyrish manipulative “let me list the stuff I do, just so you have a context in which to place your lack of cooperation here” stuff. My only saving grace is that I’m angry, rather than weepy, when it happens.

And it works. I put on the tea, pour myself some cold coffee, stick it in the microwave, get the hot cup and sit my pissy ass down on the couch. I open up my laptop and realize it’s not actually as late as all that: I slept past my preferred wakeup time, to be sure, but it’s still just barely 7, and PK does have a reasonable amount of time before school starts. Plus today is the husband’s day off, so the car is available if it comes to that.

PK emerges from his bedroom a few minutes later fully dressed and goes directly into the bathroom to brush his teeth. The kettle starts to whistle and I say “your tea water is boiling” rather than getting up to make his cup. He comes out and says “I know,” goes back and finishes brushing, goes and takes the kettle off. He comes back to the living room. “What day is it?”

“Friday,” I reply, realizing that this means his homework is due and that we haven’t actually gotten it done.

“Shit,” he says. Then, in the actually-growing-up-this-is-my-problem-to-solve mode that he falls into more and more often lately (especially when I’ve gotten pissed off), he says, “I’ll have to take it to school and finish it there.”

“I guess so,” I reply.

He goes to look for his workbook. Which, since we’re coming off the two-week break and he didn’t have homework for at least a week beforehand and his room didn’t get cleaned over Xmas, he can’t find. Eventually he comes out with the textbook.

“Is that it?”

“No, this is just the sort of explaining-things book. I can’t find the homework book.”

“Huh, that’s too bad.” I’m reading Facebook.

He goes back and looks some more, still can’t find it.

“I still can’t find it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I did do a quick sort of clean-up of my room, though, at least.”

“Okay.”

He stands there at a bit of a loss, then sits down on the other end of the couch. “Mama, I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Okay, yes, sometimes I am an asshole.

“For before.”

Sigh. “Thanks. I’m sorry I got so mad.”

He picks up one of his Xmas books, a history encyclopedia, and starts reading.

By now, of course, it is definitely time for him to be leaving for school, or for me to drive him. But this seems to be going pretty well, as a do-it-yourself lesson, so I don’t say anything for about ten minutes. If he asks, I will either help him find his book or take him to school, but I’m not in the mood to help him think. Finally, I can’t stand it any more.

“So what are your plans for the day, then?”

“To go to school and be anxious about not having my homework done.”

“Well, school starts in about three minutes.”

“Oh shit!” He puts the book down and the next thing I know, the back door has slammed and he’s gone to get his bike.

My little boy is growing up.

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8 responses to “Letting Go Apparently Isn’t that Hard

  • Steve

    Well done. It was so significant for me when our son started worrying about school – meant I did not have to. The foundation of independence is laid in middle school and it is so sad when High School kids are not expected or allowed to be in charge of their own lives.

  • tedra

    PK started worrying in first grade, actually, which is WAY too early–so I switched him to a hippie half-assed public school and out of the high-test-scores-aspirational public school. But yes, the worrying NOW makes me pretty happy, as long as it’s productive and actually changes his behavior….

  • landismom

    One of my favoritest things is that 9 days out of 10, the Bee will now get herself up, dressed, make herself breakfast and then stand in front of the microwave watching the clock until it’s the exact moment to leave for school. So awesome.

    The tenth day is still a bitch, of course.

  • Ben

    Yay, it’s the new blog… Welcome back to the interwebs.

  • Christine

    wow, you are my parenting idol and I don’t even have kids yet!! srsly. Especially this:

    “Okay, fine. Get yourself up and off to school.” I stand up and leave the room. I turn around as I reach the doorway with an afterthought. “Oh, and I’m going to put the water on for your tea. Which is apparently the kind of thing you do think it’s okay to be interdependent about.”

    Digression: yep, apparently I am that kind of a mom. My authority is primarily verbal, and while I can definitely leverage a certain amount of intimidation (“Mama, you are scary when you’re mad”), for the most part his stubbornness and my reluctance to just whip out the “BECAUSE I SAID SO GODDAMNIT” speech (which is probably why it’s effective when I do) means that I pull a lot of this martyrish manipulative “let me list the stuff I do, just so you have a context in which to place your lack of cooperation here” stuff. My only saving grace is that I’m angry, rather than weepy, when it happens.

    You just unintentionally summed up SO much of what made my mother’s demeanor around her kids so emotionally terrorizing and resentment-fueling — TONE is EVERYTHING here. It’s not martyrish/manipulative if you aren’t pulling on emotional strings when you say it, but exasperatedly appealing to logic. I only hope I can be this calm when I’m dealing with this stuff!

  • tedra

    Aww, thanks. I don’t know if I’m pulling emotional strings or appealing to logic when I do that kind of thing. Mostly I think I’m scolding.

  • tedra

    Ack! Rowmyboat, I accidentally deleted your comment. :(

    But yes, he is. :)

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