Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mrs. Calm-Cool-and-Collected I am not.

So once again yesterday morning, I was the bad guy. Or gal. Whatever you want to call it.

But honestly, I really don't give a flip that Charlie was mad at me. Sometimes someone has to be the bad guy/gal. And this time it was me.

Allow me to explain.

Charlie will be 9-years old in just a few short weeks. He is fiercely clinging to his independence and his desire to do things on his own and for himself, which we happily oblige. As much as I want to cling to the baby and toddler years because they are so precious, I can't wipe their butts and noses forever. I love this "tweener"age Charlie is at right now, even if he is a tad moody at times. He's funny, I can trust him to do things on his own, he helps me out, and he doesn't need me constantly. But then again, he's also not too cool or teenager-ey yet that he doesn't need his mom once in awhile. I still get plenty of hugs from him.

So it's no biggie that in the mornings, Charlie and Henry wake up with their alarm clock, take showers in their bathroom, get dressed and head downstairs to get their breakfasts every morning without assistance from Bill and I.

And no, I'm not languishing in my bed all morning reading the paper and getting breakfast in bed while the older boys help themselves. I'm usually showering, getting myself ready, and then helping George and Annabel get ready for the day. Besides, I still make their lunches and help them scramble to get their backpacks ready. I'm just saying that I don't hold their hands all day long anymore.

I'm very okay with Big Kid independence.

As great as my guys have gotten with their morning routines, Bill and I have learned that it's best to keep things light and airy in the morning. The littlest thing can set off a temper tantrum on those crazy busy school mornings, so it's best to avoid the heavy topics or anything potentially upsetting. We have to be all, "Oh, so you want to have the orange juice in the big glass and pour it yourself? Even though I know perfectly well that you will take 3 sips of it and then leave it sitting there? Sure. Go ahead. Whatever it takes to get you out the door happy, fed and ready to learn."

It's kind of like eclipses. You know how eclipses are awesome and cool, but they say you shouldn't look directly into an eclipse or you will burn your retinas? You're supposed to shade your eyes and let your eyes dance around it without ever looking directly at it. And in this analogy Charlie and Henry are the eclipse. An Bill and I are the not-wanting-to-be-burnt retinas. We happily dance around the potentially bad stuff or avoid it altogether just to make the mornings go smoothly.

Sorry. Bad analogy. You get the idea.

Well my Charlie enjoys his bagels and english muffins occasionally in the morning, so at the age of 8-almost-9, I'm okay with him pulling out the toaster, plugging it in, and toasting it himself, even if I happen to be upstairs and busy.

But we have this toaster. It's a sad little toaster. He's (yes, I assign gender to my appliances) missing a handle, it takes him way too long to toast a simple piece of bread, and he makes this buzzing sound every time he pops up. Actually it's more like an electric ZAP. But he still works, so I have resisted replacing it. A new toaster costs what? $20 for a basic one, up to $100 or more? So it's not price. Maybe I'm just attached to it because it was a wedding present. Maybe I'm El Cheapo. Who knows why I haven't gotten a new one yet? It doesn't even sit on our counter though, so as ugly as it is, we only see it when we pull it out of the cupboard once in awhile.

But 11 years of dedicated hard work and toasting is a lot to ask of him. He is clearly asking us for retirement every time he ZAPS up another piece of bread. "Zzzzaaaappp...please...let...me...zap...die....in....zap...peace....zzzzzaaaappp."

And here he is. Quite the sorry-looking fella isn't he?

Now before I get to the next part of my story, let me take a detour in the Land of the Calm People, aka my husband, Bill. I have said before that Bill is a very calm man. And as you know, I am most definitely NOT a calm person. I'm okay with that, too. I'm definitely not the overbearing mom that micromanages and spazzes out around every corner, but when a crisis happens, I embrace my inner spazz. Sometimes it works to my advantage, sometimes it makes things worse. But as Popeye says, "I yam what I yam."

Remember during the 2008 Presidential Election and the media loved to reference the fact that Barack Obama was a very calm man? He was rarely rattled. As much as people tried to get to him, he was all, "Mr. Easy-Peasy." But if they had a Who's the Calmest? contest, a "Calm-Off" if you will, Bill might squeak by Barack by a nose. (And this has nothing to do with politics, either. I don't DO politics in my blog. This is a happy place where all are welcome.) Bill's very much a "rationally-think-things-through-and-then-let-it-roll-like-water-off-a-duck's-back" kind of guy. Bill would be all, "Nuclear missiles coming at the US? I'm thinking on my feet. No need to get upset about anything. Oooohhhhmmm....." But I would be all, "HOLY S***!!! MISSILES! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! GRAB THE KIDS AND DUCK AND COVER!" It's not that I'm bragging about his calmness either. Believe me, it gets on my last nerve sometimes that he's Mr. Calm-Cool-and-Collected in a crisis, and I'm all Spazzy McSpazzerson. He lets it roll and doesn't think too far ahead, and I obsess and overthink. But he's the yin to my yang, and we balance each other out, because who really wants to be married to a version of themself? I don't.

Off on a tangent again.

Anyway. Back to Charlie, the toaster, and me being the bad gal.

Charlie was toasting a bagel yesterday morning and I was chatting with him while the rest of the house was relatively quiet. Bill was in the shower, George and Annabel were sleeping, and Henry was still getting dressed. I was emptying the dishwasher and enjoying a little alone time with my oldest child. He opens up and talks to me a lot more when we are in these little moments, and I treasure them.

As Charlie stood there, butter knife in hand and cream cheese at the ready, and waited for his bagel to pop up, we suddenly heard the familiar ZAP of Old Trusty Toaster. I turned my head, and I noticed that this time the bagel didn't pop up. It was all ZAP, no POP. And then I saw Charlie, my sweet, first-born child, take his METAL BUTTER KNIFE and ALMOST reach into the STILL PLUGGED-IN toaster and ALMOST try to pry his bagel out.

And Spazzy McSpazzerson was in the house.


My boy threw his butter knife on the ground, burst into tears, and ran to parts unknown in the house. I could hear him wailing, but I just couldn't see him.

Did I feel bad that I spazzed out? Absolutely not.

Bill came running, spurred into action, thinking there was a crisis, and CALMLY said, "What's wrong? What happened?"

So I gave him the recap, and Bill said, "Well Clare, now he's all upset and he's not going to eat breakfast, and we're going to be late. Was it really necessary to scream? Why didn't you just calmly ask him to not stick the knife in there?"



"Yes, I think it was totally necessary to scream at him. I don't give a flip that I scared him. He should be scared. He won't be attempting to stick any metal knives in any toasters anytime soon, will he? I did it because I love him and I didn't want him to be hurt, and/or dead."

Tough love ain't easy.

Eventually Charlie came out of hiding and I hugged him and told him that I loved him. He spat out, "You don't always have to tell me what to do, mom! I'm not stupid! I KNOW you don't stick a knife in a toaster! I'm not a baby! You don't always have to tell me what to do!"

Once again.



Crisis averted. Little boy is safe and sound. Mommy spazzed-out but doesn't regret it one bit. Would do it again in a heartbeat.

But there were two things that stuck with me about yesterday morning.

1.) We are getting a new toaster. He ZAPPED instead of POPPING and therefore, he almost hurt my little boy. Buh-bye Old Trusty.

2.) I obsessed about the incident a little bit too much when I finally got a chance to lay down in bed last night and think about it. No, I did not regret my reaction. What I obsessed about was the What Ifs. I said to Bill, "What if I wasn't standing right there talking to Charlie? What if I didn't turn around in time? What if I was upstairs and came down to the kitchen to find him laying on the floor, electrocuted?"

Bill doesn't DO What Ifs. He hugged me and said, "But nothing bad happened. It's okay. You can't think about that stuff."

For all the positives of Big Kid independence, there's the whole wondering if I'm preparing my guys enough. We do all the, "Say No to drugs" obvious stuff, but I mean, it's not like things like this just come up in normal conversation. "Hey Char, by the way, if you're ever toasting a bagel and it doesn't pop up, never stick a metal knife in there. Because you might die. Mmmmmkay?"

But we can't hold on to them forever. I know I'm doing the right thing by encouraging the older two boys to slowly become more independent. I want to prepare them for adulthood bit by bit while still being their mom and doing stuff for them. After all, the world does not need more young adults who can't make decisions or do things for themselves.

We did pull back a little bit though. We became lax about it after awhile, but we just went back to the old appliance rule: "No operating anything that plugs into a wall without Mom or Dad present."

Besides, I'll happily toast them a bagel anytime they want.

However, I might make some concessions when it comes to laundry.

I'd totally be okay with them learning that skill.

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