Thursday, February 18, 2010
Adventures in Real Parenting: I'd Sell My Soul for a Jelly Donut
Or a lifetime's supply of grape KoolAid.
Picking up the story from yesterday....
Nate arrived home from school. I actually got up off my ass and greeted him with a breezy "Hi! How was your day?"
Now the trick here, as many of you know, when you're dealing with this kind of animal in the wild, you don't want to make any sudden movements. The fourteen year old male wishes to remain invisible unless he's in need of clean sweatpants, that jacket you told him fifteen times already to pick up and hang on the coatrack or he's got a desire for sustenance and he doesn't want to turn off the video game and fetch some.
So I didn't follow him around or get all up in his grill. I accepted with measured enthusiasm his reply of "Fine." I stood at the top of the stairs and watched as he tossed his backpack into the corner, yanked off his North Face and jammed his earbuds back where they belong. I remained there until he appeared settled, the remote control in one hand, the iPod Touch in the other.
Step one = accomplished.
I went to my office and waited approximately eight minutes, at which time, I stood, took a deep breath and headed for the living room. I felt like I was preparing for a turn in the Cage. I swept through the room, not making eye contact (very important) and puttered around in the kitchen for a few seconds before calling out, "Does anyone need anything from in here?"
Sophia, who was ensconced on the love seat under a throw was just waking from her little catnap. Were she not asleep, young master Nathan wouldn't have been able to pinch the remote without a fight. Sophia has learned to hide it under her butt or a convenient throw cover. "I'm good. I had a hotdog when I came home."
It was true, she had. I could see the evidence on the kitchen table. The paper plate with the horrifying grease spot, the ketchup bottle resting upside down to cut down on that splat of liquidy stuff that just ruins things. She seemed to have some innate sense that she was not the focus of our current parenting angst and thus was willing to provide certain services for herself. She perhaps understood that compared to the brouhaha surrounding her brother, her negotiations for things would be just more wasted energy. She's a smart girl like that.
I waited for Nate to answer, but none came. I poked my head around the kitchen wall. Oh, yes, that's right. He had the earbuds in. (At this point, a thinking person might wonder why he's listening to music and has control of the remote. I have no answer except to say that, like me, sometimes he prefers to watch the action on television without having to hear the inanity of it all.)
Nathan removed his earbuds and looked steadily at me. "Did you need anything from the kitchen?" I tried to keep just the appropriate amount of cheer in my voice without being too over the top or without giving off the vibe that I would be annoyed if he did make a request.
"Nah, I'm good."
I went about reheating the chicken noodle soup from a couple nights previous. I had some, Sophia had some. Nathan, our pickiest eater, went into the kitchen and foraged for this and that. He came out with an array of things that I preferred to ignore. Choose your battles, choose your battles....
There were some negotiations between the children about what to watch on the television and then we all settled into our chosen spots to stare at the flickering screen and shovel food down our gaping maws.
Typically, and I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, I would simply retreat to my own room to eat in peace and watch some old movie on TCM while leaving them to chew the carcass of what ever poor beast they've brought down in front of programs such as Cake Boss or It's My Wedding and I'll Spend Myself and You into Oblivion for It If I Want To. I'm fighting battles enough with food these days. I don't want my dinner hour punctuated by tearful spoiled brides to be or my appetite stoked by Buddy and his obscene cake porn. Mmmmmm cake.......
But last night, I remained in the room and watched the DVR'd South Park (again with the South Park) so that I could enjoy the pleasure of the company of my two children. Chloe, as you may remember, has left the show. She now makes only occasional appearances as the college-aged daughter. MathMan is supplementing his salary as a baseball coach. So there we were, we three, enjoying our meal in front of South Park. I was just about to get seconds on the soup, which I did not need, when Michael Jackson's nose fell off. I don't care if it is a cartoon. That was enough for me.
I deposited my bowl into the dishwasher and sauntered back into the living room. This time, I sat next to Nate, again with a minimum of eye contact, and leaned back on the sofa to enjoy the rest of the program. He lay down and propped his feet on my legs. I took that as a good sign.
"So, what's on your agenda tonight?" Oh, tactical error. Too, um, momlike. Shoot. Did I blow it?
"Lots of homework. I'm supposed to go play basketball at T's house and then I have to work on my research paper." His eyes never left the television, but I was fully aware that he'd not mentioned church. Not once. And it was Wednesday night.
"So no church?" I was willing to risk it. I didn't want to push, but I didn't want him to think I'd forgotten.
I noticed that Sophia was taking it all in. She was being cool about it, of course, as is her way, but all of her angst receptors had swiveled in our direction while her eyes stayed glued to the t.v. waiting for the scene where you actually get to hear Kenny's voice and see him without his hood.
"I'm sooo thirsty." Ah, the plaintive bleatings of a child who wants something, is fully capable of providing for himself, but is still unwilling to rise from the sofa and produce.
"There's KoolAid." I wanted to be helpful, but I didn't want to tip my hand too soon. I was thinking back to someone's comment about the church's enticements of cookies and other delectable refreshments.....
"A'right." He didn't move.
"Would you like for me to make you some KoolAid?" I looked at him directly this time. If I was going in for the kill, then I was going to have to make sure that I was aiming directly at the target. If I'd had a tail, it would have been swishing back and forth, back and forth.
"Would you? That'd be cool." He returned my gaze. Was he going to dodge me?
"Hey, let's make a deal. I'll make you KoolAid and you stop calling yourself a Christian." Would he take me seriously?
He froze. I counted silently while I waited. He was considering this. Five, Six, Seven....
"A'right." He smiled.
"Really?" Was this a trap? Was I about to get hoisted on my own petard?
"Yeah, really. The whole thing's pretty stupid anyway."
He's as capricious as his mother. I cannot say otherwise. But this gave me hope that we're on the right track. He's got my attention. Those people who want to influence him without my knowledge or consent are going to have to wait a little longer. I'll spend every Wednesday night watching programs of his choice if I have to. But I promise you and him this - they won't get to muck around in his head without going through me first.