They say there’s always one born to drive you crazy. That would be my 10 year-old, a whip smart, manipulative, feisty and sensitive boy who only takes no for an answer if it’s the answer he wants.
We’ve just gone a round or two over putting away his clothes. It was a simple request that should have taken five minutes that I gave more than a full day’s latitude before putting my foot down. But instead of compliance with a loud sigh, we spent a solid half hour in a heated battle of wills.
“It will take you five minutes.” I maintained calmly. “Let’s not continue this waste of time. Go get it done so we can move on.”
“There is no purpose to it!” He insisted, always looking to debate. “I like them on my floor… It’s my room.”
Back and forth we went until I stopped. “No more discussion. I’m telling you what you need to do, and if you don’t there will be a consequence. Last warning.”
He wasn’t happy but finally complied. Fear of losing his device carries weight. It’s possibly my only real leverage.
Not 15 minutes later, my quills from our recent clash barely settled, he wanders back into the kitchen bounce, bounce, bouncing his basketball with a smile that makes me wait for what’s coming.
“Hey,” He greets through bounces that feel like it’s my head banging against a wall.
“Hey,” I reply, standing up a little straighter, eyeing him.
He takes his time, drawing it out.
“So mom, why don’t you work?”
I’m confused, thrown off. I thought he’d request macaroni and cheese or an M&M yogurt, if he could skip Hebrew school or if 2, 3 or 4 of his closest friends could come over, but this…
“What do you mean? Taking care of you boys and daddy and the house and everything is a lot of work.”
“Yeah, but it’s not a real job.”
I’m trying hard not to be defensive but my heart is shattered all over my kitchen floor, along with some lost morning cereal and crumbs. I suck.
“Taking care of you guys is a real job.”
He looks at me smug, like I should know better. “Not really.”
All of sudden all the stay-at-home vs working mommy wars are right here in my house coming from the most unexpected of places, from one of the people I revolve my world around.
“So you want a nanny to take care of you?” I am a wounded animal, a wounded domestic animal.
He shrugs, “I wouldn’t mind.”
UGH. He’s killing me. I bend down to pick up Cheerios and wonder if I’m paying for the battle over the clothes. Or maybe he would like to see me working. Whenever I show him essays of mine or talk about publishing a book I wrote, he is proud. Maybe he wants to be able to show me off. But more likely, he’s the cat and I’m just a mouse that he’s toying with.
“Your brothers would mind,” I counter. “They like that I pick you guys up and come to all the school stuff and bake brownies. They like that I’m here to help with homework and hang out.”
“You could still do that if you worked.”
“Yeah. Well no. I couldn’t do all that.” Another piece of my self-worth crumbles to the floor.
“Well the nanny could.” He’s not letting up for one second.
We’re at an impasse and I’m ready to get a job just to spite him. Visions of Nanny Ratched play out in my head.
I sigh. It’s time to change the subject. “So are you hungry? Do you want macaroni and cheese?”
“Yeah,” he says. “Thanks.”
As I put the pot on, he pulls his homework from his book bag and I watch his bowed head, busy at work, scribbling off answers. This is my job. This is where I love and need to be. He can push all he wants.
The water is boiling but I am not.