My son Joey was a surprise. Having only been married a very short time when we realized I was pregnant, I managed my extreme panic, painful morning sickness, and, at times, horror, by imagining a beautiful little girl I would call Isabella all dressed in pink with giant floppy bows on her tiny bald head.
Joey is so not a girl. Nor, for that matter, is Noah.
But I have since decided that God had a LOT of reasons for placing me in a boy-crazy house. For one thing, it's certain payback for my behavior as a teenage girl. I also think it's owed to my behavior as a teenager in a way completely unrelated to boys. I don't think I could live with another me. It's not about sharing a spotlight, it's about how really terribly I could behave as someone who is as much girl as my boys are boys. Let me spell it out for you. Drama. Angst. Hormones. Shrillness.
I told my mother I hated her more than once. Maybe even every other day. I said even worse things to my brother and probably my sister, too, though our relationship now is so close I can't actually remember it being any other way (which is probably for the best). My dad is pretty scary when you tick him off, so I never said anything nasty directly to his face, but you can bet he was the recipient of some seriously fuming Thoughts and Mutterings.
My only jobs in my teens were working for my parents. Before I describe my somewhat atrocious behavior, I'd like to defend myself by saying my parents wouldn't let me work anywhere else. For all my prissiness, I really wanted to work at Burger King and eat Whoppers. No kidding--I thought they were delicious and still do. But instead, I answered phones at my dad's office two nights a week, and sometimes cleaned. He fired me each and every night that I worked. Either I was "sick," late, belligerent, rude, or just plain old refused to get up off my chair. He would yell, "Then just go home! I don't want you here, then!" and I would drive all the way home only to have my mother say, "Don't be an asshole. You have to go back and apologize."
I worked for my mom as an "administrative assistant." I have to give her credit for tossing such a glossy title my way, but I also have to admit that I was prone to skipping out early, falling behind in stacks of paperwork, and trying to flirt with the male employees (who were all way too old for me).
In short, I was a bit of a brat and not very nice.
I'm thinking of all this right now because while I didn't get the daughter who would supposedly bring strife and drama to my life, I do have two children who are people. They are individuals with their own personalities, and there is nothing I can do or even want to do to shake that out of them. Boys bring their own issues to the table, and it's not just gross bathroom floors.
Noah managed to say all of the following to me in the course of just today:
You are MEAN.
I am NOT doing that.
I WILL not do that.
I don't like you.
I don't need you.
I want a NEW mommy.
I don't want a mommy at all.
I don't want to live with you.
I hate you.
You are ugly, ugly, ugly.
I know in my heart that these things he said today were only said because I was expecting him to do things he didn't want to do (poop on the toilet, eat his whole lunch, take a nap, put something away, etc.), and because I refused to take no for an answer--something I definitely inherited from my own parents. I also know that because he was mad, he deliberately said things that were the OPPOSITE of what he says when he is happy. On any given day, he will also call me beautiful, tell me I'm the best Mommy, and ask me to never, ever leave him. And of course, he's only three years old. There's also that.
But as I tucked him into bed tonight, and he held my face close to his and said fiercely, "I just love you so much," the other things he said today were not erased. Sometimes I can forgive and forget, other times I cannot. Tonight, I couldn't forget. I couldn't help but feel like really good moms everywhere would know just what to do with such a high-charged, high-maintenance, intense little boy like mine.
And then I remembered being seventeen years old and standing in my parents' kitchen, looking right into my mother's eyes, and saying, "I HATE you."
I wanted to hurt her, because I had been angry. But now that I know how much it hurts, even when you know they don't mean it, I want to tell her I'm so, so sorry. I want to hug her--even though she really hates when people touch her--and buy her a big present and tell her what I've always REALLY thought:
I'm so lucky that all my life, my mom was prettier, smarter, and more fun than all the other moms. That she's better than a gourmet chef and that I really admire how clean and good she makes everything around her. I hope someday Noah will say something like this to me, but I won't hold my breath.
Because he's Noah.