Monthly Archives: September 2008

Back to Normal

Strange things have been happening around here lately.  Strange things with my son.  Or should I say, strange things with this stranger who looks like my son, and sounds like my son, but is… strange.  A stranger.  And it’s all of a sudden, and while I should be happy, at least about some of it, I’m not, not so much.

This is the kid who for 6 ½ years could not hold a pencil correctly.  He started out, naturally enough, using a fist grip, eventually moving on to some mangled version of a half fist grip.  When he was 3, and then 4, and then 5, daycare told us they would correct that.  Their main “goal” every year, was to teach him how to hold a pencil correctly.

They failed.

At a parent-teacher conference last year I discussed Snags’ odd pencil gripping ways with his teacher.  I expressed my concern that while yes, his hand writing was very legible, perhaps there was something we should still do? Some way to teach the kid to hold a pencil correctly? Because everything I’d tried had failed.  She suggested rubber pencil grips and where to buy them, then confessed that she had never learned to hold a pencil correctly herself. Then she proceeded to prove this sad point by writing a note on a pad of paper with a nearly identical half-fist grip.

And so.  Snags started first grade with the same bad pencil holding form.  And mostly I didn’t care.  He could write clearly.  But still. When Snags’ first grade teacher sent home a form where parents could write down any concerns they had, I made a quick note about the way Snags holds a pencil.  I turned in the note and didn’t give it another thought.  If six and half years had taught me anything, it was that this pencil thing just wasn’t that important.  Or Snags was very stubborn.

But then.  Snags came home from school this week and said he had a surprise for me.  He smiled as he showed me the new way he was holding a pencil.  The new PROPER way to hold a pencil!  And then… he wrote his name, holding the pencil in the new and proper way!  I fainted.

Okay, I didn’t really faint.  Instead I asked, “Who ARE you and what have you done with my son?”  I was laughed at in return.

But this pencil thing?  It’s the tip of the iceberg of strangeness around here.

Suddenly, Snags, the child who can’t be bothered to put away his LEGOs, wants to clean.  He wants to FOLD LAUNDRY.  He WANTS to MAKE HIS BED every morning. He wants to WASH WINDOWS.

This morning?  He asked if he could shake out some area rugs and then he got a broom and swept the kitchen floor.  He wanted me to hold a trash bag open so he could dump the dust pan into it.  And I was all “Look, this is really nice of you to want to clean up but OH MY GOD it’s only 6:30 in the morning and all I really want to do is relax a bit and eat my breakfast.  Can’t you do this LATER? Tomorrow? After school?”  Tonight he wants to vacuum.

In an effort to have a few moments of fading morning quiet in the midst of a million repititons of “I’m bored, what can I do, PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE?”, I agreed to let him “wash” the windows.  He pulled out a bottle of Windex, ripped off a single paper towel.  He spayed and wiped haphazardly over the inside of the glass door in the kitchen, quietly humming to himself before stepping outside into the dawn to clean the outside of the glass.  He worked away at a few spots, singing.  

He picked up the bottle of Windex again, holding it at eye level, working hard to pump the top and spray the door.  Except he had the nozzle turned the wrong way.  He sprayed himself directly in the eye.

He’s fine, now.  I watched as it happened from inside the glass.  The spray bottle dropped to the ground.  Snags, temporarily blinded in one eye, staggered inside.  “I sprayed myself in the eye!  Will I be able to see again?” He asked, alarmed, with the Windexed eye squinched shut.

I led him to the bathroom, where I flushed his eye with water, assuring him he would be fine, and sent him on his way.

When I came downstairs, I fully expected him to be cleaning the glass again.  But the dropped bottle of Windex was gone, the lone paper towel had been thrown away. Snags’ urge to clean had, apparently, been wiped clean by one shot to the eye.

I found him, like in days of old, like last week, before he learned how to properly hold a pencil, before he turned into Mr. Clean, on the floor of the library, in the middle of a large pile of LEGOs.  He looked up as I walked by, he asked a single question:

Aren’t you going to PAY ME for cleaning the windows?

I think about this for a moment, and tell him maybe.  Maybe later.  I don’t have any cash on hand at the moment.  And also, I think to myself, I didn’t ASK him to clean the windows.

But I might pay him later.  A few dollars for his ambitious in thought, if not in deed, effort.  And then I think I’ll bill him back for the medical care I had to administer.  Eye flushing is mighty expensive these days.  And accidents are preventable if you know which way to aim the nozzle.

And that Windex?  It’s pretty good stuff.  It brought my child back. I can finish the rest of my breakfast in peace, without some crazed Mr. Clean running around me in circles with a bottle of cleaner and a paper towel, begging me to plug in the vacuum.  Instead, I get to listen to him whine that he can’t find a particular LEGO piece amidst the hundreds and hundreds of LEGOs he’s spilled all over the floor. And I know, life is back to normal. A new and improved normal - one in which Snags can hold a pencil correctly.

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Filed under cleaning, kids, LEGOs, Snags

My Fault

Last Thursday night my husband and I returned from Back-to-School Night to find Snags and the babysitter relaxing on the sofa as they raptly watched Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase.  Actually, I think the babysitter was probably itching to leave and go home already, but Snags begged her to stay until the very end and so she sat, for the remaining 20 minutes of the movie, and did exactly as Snags instructed: “Watch this!  Watch!  Watch this part!  Watch!”

When we finally let her make her escape, Snags announced that he had a sore throat.  My husband gave him Children’s Tylenol and sent him to bed where all was well…  Until 2:30 in the morning, when Snags woke up felling very ill, and vomited.  “I feel better now!” he said, somewhat jubilantly, as he stepped back to flush the toilet. 

Friday morning dawned, and Snags, while not feeling entirely up to snuff, was able to eat a slice of toast and drink some water.  Since he kept that sustenance where it belonged, in his stomach, and he had no fever, just the same sore throat as the night before, I decided that he should go to school.  Because that vomiting?  Maybe it was just a fluke.  Maybe the Tylenol didn’t agree with him. And also?  It was only the second week of school.  You can’t start raking up absences in the second week of school.  Because the school?  They’re keeping score

It was also show and tell day.  Snag’s first grade teacher was bringing in a snake skin that her dog had sniffed out in her yard.  I mean, how cool would that be?  A kid with just a sore throat wouldn’t want to miss that, right?  Plus, said kid with sore throat had his own cool item for show and tell: a hornet’s nest knocked down from our roof (don’t worry, we sprayed it with killer bug spray and stuck it in a ziplock bag).

And so Snags got dressed and set off for school.  I kind of expected a call from the nurse that day, but it never came.  Snags soldiered on and stayed in school all day.  That afternoon I even took him, with his sore throat, to get his hair cut.

Saturday dawned dark and gray and the skies opened and rained upon us.  But it didn’t matter.  Snags was still fighting that sore throat so we stayed home where it was warm and dry and we could watch TV and play board games.  But by evening, Snags was decidedly miserable.  His throat still hurt, and he had a slight fever.  He was so miserable that he decided it was all MY fault.  As if I’d opened a box a sick and poured him a big bowlful of it for breakfast.  Here, eat this.  It will make your throat sore and you’ll get really grumpy and mean and blame me for your illness.  Good stuff.  He blamed me because I’m not.a.doctor.

“This is the WORST virus EVER!” he cried, over and over as he shot piercing accusatory glances in my direction. 

I tried to make him feel better.  I told him how I bet a bunch of kids in his class at school had sore throats too.  Because that always happens when school starts back up in the fall.  Kids get sick.  Viruses go around.  Snags, I said, could rest assured that he wasn’t the ONLY one feeling under the weather. It was just a virus, he’d fell better in the morning, I was sure.

And the thing about a bunch of kids in his class having sore throats too?  Ahem…cough… cough…  It’s probably true, NOW.  Because this morning we took Snags to one of those health clinics that’s open on Sundays with the hope that they’d do something to stop his whining and complaining and blaming… and they did!  They gave him an antibiotic for his STREP THROAT.  His STREP THROAT that I unwittingly sent him to school with on Friday.  His STREP THROAT that he started complaining about on Thursday night.  When the babysitter was here.

And so I’d just like to remind the babysitter, that I paid her very well, and she should think of anything else that she may have received on top of the cash I handed her as she walked out the door, as a special kind of bonus!

Mea culpa.  But then again, Snags was right.  I’m not.a.doctor.

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Filed under illness, kids, life, parenting, Snags

Perfect Insanity

There are certain things that drive me to the brink of insanity and they are these:
The sound of the dog licking her paws at night when I am trying to fall asleep.
The sound of cellophane crackling.
The sound of Snags playing Perfection in his bedroom at five o’clock in the morning.

That last one?  Heard it this morning.

The rule is, the kid is supposed to stay IN BED, and preferably in bed ASLEEP, until 7:30 a.m.   And that is the sole reason why I bought him a digital alarm clock.  So there could be no mistake on the hour. 

When I decided I’d heard enough, heard enough plastic pieces rattling around, heard enough small explosions as the timer ran out and the Perfection pieces flew into the air, I shakily climbed out of bed and opened his bedroom door. All the while repeating to myself, “it’s just a noise, don’t kill him.  It’s just a noise, don’t kill him…” 

GO.BACK.TO.BED! I nearly barked. 

He looked at me mildly, said, “But Mom, I’m just playing Perfection.”

GO.BACK.TO.BED!” I said again, perhaps a bit louder this time. “You don’t play perfection in the middle of the damn night,” I added as I turned out his bedroom light and yanked the door shut behind me.

“It’s not the DAMN NIGHT!” he cried back at me from behind his closed door. 

He’s been crying a lot lately, this child of mine.  I’m not sure but I think it’s the stress of first grade. Summer is over and now he can’t spend endless hours playing video games or building starships out of LEGOs.  In first grade, unlike kindergarten, there are no naps.  The kids have to be up and alert like the rest of us, for a full six hours straight. That kind of paying attention can wear you out, wear you down.

Snags comes home from school in the afternoons and lies upon the sofa.  He watches whatever cartoon he can find on Nickolodeon, his eyes glazed over.  He denies being tired even as he yawns, even as he “rests” his eyes.

And little things are getting to him.  Little things are setting him off.  Like yesterday, when I made him set the frog free. Snags caught a frog, or maybe it was really a small toad.  I don’t know.  I’m calling it a frog.  He brought it home and made a home for it inside an old aquarium that he set out on our front porch.  He put in some water, and some rocks and the frog.  And then he more or less left him there, in the aquarium, all alone.  He played with the frog sometimes, but he didn’t feed him.  He dropped the frog at least half a dozen times on its head, on the pavement.  I’m sure the frog, if he had the ability to think, must have wondered if he’d been captured and sent to Gitmo.  There was the small room where he was kept, Snags the guard who occasionally tortured him by manhandling him and dropping him on his head, and there was the isolation. Left all alone in the aquarium, in the bright sunlight, for days on end.  Five days to be exact.  And then there was the starvation. I’m not sure what frogs eat but I assume they eat bugs.  And no bugs were flying into the aquarium.  And the frog wasn’t let out to hunt on his own.  By yesterday I’d had enough and told Snags he had to set the frog free.

He went out to do so, but reluctantly.  I followed him out to make sure he did as I had instructed. He told me that he’d opened the frog’s mouth and looked inside.

 “HOW?”  I asked. 

“Want me to show you?” He said. 

“Yeah,” I said, curious now. 

But Snags wasn’t having any luck.  The frog’s mouth wasn’t opening.  In fact, the harder Snags tried to open the frog’s mouth, the harder he pressed upon the frog’s… chin? neck?, the more I feared he was going to rip open the flesh of the frog’s throat. I couldn’t bear it and so I asked Snags to stop.  I yelled at Snags to STOP.  Let the frog go NOW.

And Snags got upset.  “YOU NEVER LIKED FROGGY!”  He screamed, tears streaming down his face. “YOU DIDN’T LIKE HIM FROM THE MOMENT I GOT HIM,” he cried.  His face was red, contorted in anger.  His eyes bulged. Except for the tears I think he was a perfect picture of me, the way I felt when I heard him playing Perfection in the middle of the damn night. In the blink of an eye, the leap is made from peaceful calm to perfect insanity. Over a noise. Over Perfection.  Over a frog.   

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Filed under anger, boys, frogs, kids, life, parenting, Snags