My mother called me over the weekend before the clock even hit 9 am.
“Are you at home right now?” she asked.
“What time are you going to take the kids over to their dad’s house?” she asked.
“Around 2,” I told her.
“Oh. That’s too late. Nevermind.”
She was being awfully cryptic, which of course got my curiosity up.
“Why? What’s going on?”
“Well…..” She asked me if I remembered the Ninja Star that the Taz had been coloring at her house. Of course I remembered. He had colored it pure black and told me how all he had to do was throw it and it would whip through the air slicing anything in its way. I suggested that he not throw it in the kitchen, at least.
“I remember. Why?” I asked her.
“Well, apparently he was coloring it in my living room…”
“Where?” I asked her, almost afraid for her to continue.
“On my couch. With permanent black ink.”
“We’ll be right over,” I told her. I was still wearing my robe and slippers. I hadn’t brushed my hair or teeth yet that morning. I looked pretty scary as I marched outside to go find the Taz. He was not out at the basketball courts in our complex like he said he was going to be, and his friends who were already playing out there said they hadn’t seen him yet. So I tried my luck over at one of his friend’s house. The Taz opened the door.
“You’re coming home. And you’re in trouble,” I told him, not even beating around the bush.
“Mom, I tried to call you to tell you I was at Todd’s house!” he protested.
“That’s not why you’re in trouble.” He followed me home, asking me over and over what he did.
“But it wasn’t me!” he said, once I told him of his crime. I saw red. I laid into him as we walked home, fully aware that the neighbors were probably hearing every single word I was saying to my son. I didn’t care. Now I was not only furious about the ruined Ethan Allen couch that sat in my parents’ living room, I was furious that he had the audacity to LIE to me. The next door neighbor sat on her front porch, smiling and waving at me as we walked up the walkway. Without breaking my tirade against my son, I smiled and waved at her. It was only seconds later when I realized how ridiculous I must have looked as I lectured my son and still kept up appearances, somewhat, to the neighbor – all while still sporting my robe, fuzzy slippers, and wild hair.
We got dressed and went over to my parents’ house. My son sat miserably in the back seat, occasionally letting out a sniffle. If there was anything scarier than his mom (and lately, I think I’ve lost the scariness factor…), it was his grandparents.
“They’re going to kill me,” he sobbed, finally admitting fault about the marked up couch.
“You’re right,” I told him. “And this time, don’t even look to me to protect you. You’re on your own, buddy.” It brought back memories of the golf ball through the window. I had felt it my duty to take the brunt of the punishment of my father’s anger before it was passed down to him. But this time? No. It was all on the Taz.
We got to my parents’ house, and my dad greeted us with a smile, obviously trying to lighten the situation. My son slunk out of the car and faced my dad, much like walking the long pathway to his executioner. My dad led him into the house and called my mom. Together they went over the various things that the Taz had done just this past week. He had left the gate open so that the horse was able to get out and potentially stomp all over my dad’s newly landscaped backyard. He had missed the toilet and peed all over the floor. And now my mom’s couch held numerous black marks that might never come out.
It came time to talk about correcting this situation. My parents looked to me, the hopelessness in their eyes. They had been growing increasingly frustrated over the past year as the Taz messed up at their house. He had been eating their leftovers planned for dinner after school. He had been eating food in the living room. The house was growing messier and messier because he wasn’t picking things up. He was going to his friends’ houses and not coming back when he was supposed to.
“Maybe he needs to go back to daycare,” my mom said. “I’ll even pay for it if I need to.”
“No, Mom,” I said. I couldn’t let him go back to daycare. His teachers there had been wonderful. But the Taz was a handful there too. I was constantly being called in because of something the Taz had done – breaking the pencil sharpener, experimenting with potty language, not following direction, doing gymnastics during circle time… With a bunch of kids as his audience, the Taz’s behavior would only get worse. “But he can’t come over here anymore. I’m probably just going to have to take him to work with me and let him sit and be bored for the last 2 hours,” I said. It was the only option. At my parents’ house, he had too much unsupervised time. My dad was there, but he was working. And the Taz’s ideas for self-entertaining were just not working. I turned to the Taz.
“And your Xbox is gone, again.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“That’s ok. At least I have my friends,” he said. Seriously? I mean, seriously? The kid was under scrutiny right now, and actually had the audacity to brush off his punishment?
“Well, they’re gone too. Is there anything else you’d like to mention that ‘at least you have’?” I asked him, daring him to speak.
“I’m thinking…” he said. I think smoke may have been coming out of my ears at this point. “Nah, I have nothing.”
“Taz, aren’t you tired of getting your things taken away from you?” my mom asked.
“Well, I’m kind of used to it,” he said. “I get my things taken away from me all the time.”
And it’s true. The Taz screws up. And then he opens his mouth and denies it. And then we argue about it while he shifts the blame on everything and everyone around him. And by the end I am so mad that I have taken away his video games first, then his friends, and then, if he continues, anything else that is within eyesight that he cares about. He’ll then be on his best behavior for a couple weeks or so until he has earned everything back. And then, the cycle starts up again. It’s never ending.
It reminds me of my childhood. When I was a teenager, I was a punk, straight up. And because I symbolically stuck my middle finger up at my parents by blatantly disrespecting them in all things I did, I constantly had things taken away from me. First to go was always the car. Then it was time taken from being with my friends or my boyfriend. Phone use was taken away, as was my stereo. Little by little, all my belongings were taken out of my room and stashed away until I had learned to talk a little more respectfully and had done my time for whatever infraction I had committed. Thing is, I got in trouble so much that I stopped caring, and pretty much acted like I could do what I want. If my parents took the car away, and everything that came after that, it stopped phasing me. And it definitely didn’t improve my attitude.
And now, I am having this same battle with my 9 year old son, struggling to reach him as he makes himself unreachable. And if he is acting like this now, what is it going to look like when he is a teenager? If he has a constant need to break rules as if he’s forgotten them, lie and blameshift when he gets caught, backtalk when the conversation isn’t going his way, and then get in a power struggle with me as I try to correct the situation and he acts like he doesn’t care, how horrendous will it be several years from now?
I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried talking to him, getting down to his level and allowing both of us to talk about our feelings in this situation. I’ve tried the silent treatment, limiting my conversations with him to one or two words, telling him I cannot speak with him until I have cooled down considerably (and sometimes taking days because it has set me over the limit). And of course, I’ve been mainly resorting to taking away his possessions.
The only answer I have left is constant supervision. Obviously I have to be the Taz’s shadow. If it’s attention he wants, well, he’s going to get it. When he isn’t in school, he will be at my side. Truth is, he does better when he is under my thumb. So I will be taking the extra measures to make sure that this is what happens. I might be losing my freedom in a big way, but the behavior issues need to be addressed and put to a halt before they get any worse.
I’m not going to lie, though. This bites. Totally open for suggestions…