This is what my son haughtily (well if I’m being HONEST, rudely) informed me one night when I was making a dinner that he was not interested in eating. “Mom, I can eat what I want because I have the power of cooking now!” I started teaching him to cook this summer and like most of my brilliant ideas, it came back to bite me when I least expected it.
This has been a hard summer and I’m not ashamed to admit I’m glad to see Fall approaching (yes, I will capitalize “Fall” because it’s my favorite season -summer sucks). My son is 10 and a little twitchy at times. This summer was heart wrenching on many levels – my son developed some new and alarming ticks that sent me into a whirl of high anxiety. He’s a very upbeat and excited kid, but it also comes with some nervous habits.
He started stretching his middle fingers and looked like he was flipping people off and then the head shaking began. I felt like I was coming undone. He was starting new summer camps and I envisioned phone calls from counselors asking me why my son was giving people ‘the bird’. Or kids teasing him for violent head shaking. Luckily these things never came to fruition. But my stomach clenched every time it happened. And of course, that made the situation worse.
I thought maybe spending some time together in the kitchen might be a good idea. We declared Wednesday “D—- Cooking Night” – and got down to it. He’s made a few things in the past, but usually doesn’t have the patience to sustain an entire cooking project. As we started our first meal, I noticed that every time I approached him, he flinched and twitched. A ball of lead dropped into my belly. Dear god – it was ME. I was causing his anxiety. I was exacerbating his ticks. He was nervous around ME. I wanted to crawl into a hole and cry – I felt so awful. Like awful-what-kind-of-a-mom-am-I-awful. I tend towards reflection and intense introspection…and realized that my child spends a lot of his time having his behaviors corrected – and a lot of it is from me (I can barely write this without bursting into guilt-laden tears of grief). I realized that I need to let my son make mistakes – come to things his own way and allow him the freedom to just be. It’s hard – when your child is a little quirky, you so badly want them to be accepted and do ‘the right thing’ so as not to be teased..you forget that they are just people that need to be themselves.
It’s 3 months later – D—‘s finger and head ticks are virtually non-existent. I’ve changed. He’s changed. The other night, he waltzed into the kitchen, and with more confidence that I’ve ever seen in him, grabbed a knife and started cutting up lettuce for tacos. I had to stop what I was doing and grab him for a hug. I am so proud of him – and so sad for what my hyper-vigilance of the past had wrought in him. I wish I could have a do-over. If I knew then what I know now, I’d have trusted myself more, trusted that he would be who he is and be wonderful.
He and I still have our moments – but like he told my friend the other day, after an outburst towards me, “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m going through maturity”. Ya know what, dear child, me too. Me too.