I have a very special relationship with my son. I know, as a parent you are just not allowed to say things like that. In fairness I have a special relationship with all three children in my life. Each has their own unique flavor of laughter and hugs. My son, the youngest, is my snuggler. He lives for snuggle time and I know that to start his day off just right there needs to be some snuggling with me in my bed before he gets out of jammies and ready for school or camp. He is fond of saying “you are the best mom in the world.” He says the same to his dad. He is just a warm outwardly loving kid.
This particular morning started like most others. Lots of snuggling and he even got to play some games on my phone as a reward for getting dressed quickly and packing his lunch. It was a great morning. We got to camp on time. Kisses and hugs were exchanged and I went off to start my day.
Somewhere between morning and the drive home from camp something went wrong…
I got to the pick-up area and noticed that my son was not happy. The camp director pulled me over and explained that he was angry because after having an accident in his pants in front of the computer she had made him take off his wet shorts and underpants and change into his bathing suit. I was devastated.
We have been battling the accidents for years already. He is 8 years old. He never wets his bed, he only has accidents during activities from which he has no interest in tearing himself away. Computers. TV. The culprits.
I had had a long day at this point and my fuse was shorter than normal and when we got in the car I just let him have it. I raised my voice and said, “I just don’t understand. You are 8 years old. When are you going to learn that you have to go to the bathroom in the toilet and not in your pants?!” Even as I was saying it my heart was breaking. I hate when my fuse is short and I feel awful when I am yelling. But I was really fed up.
In the back seat he starts sobbing. “I just want better parents.”
What? Now I was furious. Aren’t I “the best mom in the world” after all? “You want better parents?” I asked. “Fine, do you want me to take you to social services and ask them to assign you to different parents?” These are the comments that as they are coming out of my mouth I am desperately trying to take them back in and retract them.
“Yes.” He cried quietly the remaining few blocks to the house.
We pulled into the garage and he asked me for a suitcase. I gave him a suitcase, he dragged it up two flights of stairs and began to pack his belongings. My head was spinning. I went into the bathroom and closed the door and tried to figure out how I was going to get out of this one. He wanted to leave and he believed that I was ready to take him to get new parents. I had many problems here.
Of course, I did not want him to leave and of course I did not want him to think I would readily give him away. I also did not believe that at the core he wanted to leave, but I did not know how to get us to the point in the conversation where he was going to be ready to hear me and understand. We had come to a battle of wills and brains and I felt sure that I was losing.
He knocked on the bathroom door and told me his suitcase was packed. As I heard him struggling to drag the packed bag down the steps I called out and told him to hang on, I’d carry the bag out for him.
He was waiting in the hallway within ear shot. I could hear him rustling. I came out of the bathroom and picked up the phone to “place a call to social services.” To the imaginary person on the other end of the line I began: “Hi, is this social services? This is Dafna Michaelson, that’s M-I-C-H-A-E-L-S-O-N yes. I have an 8 year old boy who is asking to be assigned to different parents…what? No, no, I don’t want to give him up but he would like to replace me. He is packed and I can bring him in.”
From the other room my son comes in, “Mommy, I don’t have to go. I can stay. I did not really think you would…” and he begins to sob.
I ended the call with my imaginary social services department and got down on the floor to hold my son. “Honey, I don’t want you to go either. But, you told me you wanted to go so I was just respecting your wishes. I love you. I would cry every day if you left.”
We hugged for a while and then I took the suitcase (which he had packed very well to my amazement) and placed it back in his bedroom to be unpacked. Crisis averted for the moment.
As parents there are so many times that we say things to our children that we know as they are coming out of our mouths are wrong. How do we resolve the issue? How do we bring the situation around and show our children respect? Many times I have apologized to the kids for saying or doing the wrong thing. I believe that it is OK for parents to own up to their mistakes to their children. I hope it will make them understand that we are all human.
I had called my ex in the moment of the argument with my son, and he was amused. He said “how cute.” OK, I knew the packing the bag thing was cute. I even knew in the moment that one day we’d look back and laugh the way we laugh at my own “running away” stories. Yet, in the moment, when emotions were strong all I wanted was to sooth my sons pain and be back in bed snuggling up the start to a great new day.