“Mom,” my son whined loudly as I handed his dad a Father’s Day card, “I wish there was a Son’s Day.”
“Got news for you, Luca,” I shot back. “Everyday is Son’s Day.”
It’s summer. That is a good thing. Long, hot days filled with unscheduled time. No worrisome alarms. No nagging deadlines. For a teacher, June and July are a part of the package benefits. So, why do I feel my skin crawling and my anxiety rising? Perhaps it is that little mercenary of personal pleasure sitting in the backseat of my car. Propped up in his booster seat that generally doubles as a throne, this egomaniacal dictator of self-interest strategizes his next move like an elaborate chess game.
“If I eat ALL my food at Cracker Barrel, can we just get ONE thing in the store? Just one, little thing. Like one piece of candy.”
“When we get back home, will it be morning or afternoon? Can I see if Addison is home? Wait, can I see now? Why do I have to go to the grocery store with you?”
“If I am really, really nice, will Grandma give me just one prize or do you think I might get two?”
“I don’t have to go to bed right now, Momma, it’s the wrong eight! It’s the other eight when I go to bed.” (For the love of all that is holy, what does he mean?)
Oh, Luca, I remember when I wished you could talk. How short-sighted of me.
Seriously, how can one human being . . . one relatively under-sized human being work so tirelessly for his own gain? If I stop at Publix, he wants me to pick up the sugar cookies with blue icing. If I swing through the Starbucks drive-thru, he soooo needs a cake pop. If I get the mail, he wonders why nobody sent him anything. That’s it. I’m raising a megalomaniac.
And his process mirrors that of a five star general. He starts off with a simple, although self-deprecating request. “Momma, I’m guessing you’re going to say no, but dot, dot, dot- fill in the blank with an outrageous request that caters only to one.” After I invariably do, he begins his systematic assault. He produces his baby like whiney voice at the precise decibel of annoyance. He seems to intuitively know the exact tone that sets my nerves on blast. “But momma, whyyyy??????? Why can’t we go to California today?” (We live in Tennessee.) It starts low and slow, increasing in strength and stridency the longer I ignore it. In my head, I sing through two verses of “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music and the next thing I know, there is an explosion of caterwauling in the back seat. Now, he brings his best assault, anger with two guns ablazing, gathering all the fortitude his eight year old lungs can sustain, demanding that I pay attention to his humble and easy to deliver request. My internal temperature rises like a menopausal hot flash, and before I know it, I have whipped out my “Momma’s gone crazy” voice. Screaming into the abyss and threatening all manner of disciplinary consequences, pressing on the gas pedal for effect, I have an out of body experience. I can see and hear myself, but it seems only from a distance. Then, the echoes of my anger reverberate off the back window, falling to the ground complete with the shrapnel of a military counter-attack. Head drooping low, eyes and mouth squished together in despair, my opponent is defeated. “We will NOT be going to California today,” I silently congratulate myself.
And then, just as I gather my sanity, a small, puny voice emerges from the backseat, a phoenix rising from the ashes like the villain in a horror film, “But, Momma, why can’t we go to California today?”