For the last few weeks, Chago's behavior has significantly improved at school. At home, though, it's been a completely different story. He's been lashing out at his sister more than ever, ignoring or forgetting specific instructions (to pick this up or put that away), and rolling his eyes or making a series of increasingly disrespectful noises of exasperation when I catch and/or call him on either.
Typically, this leads to a timeout. Huge infractions that result in, say, bleeding or bruising from a non-accidental whack, result in loss of privileges or favorite books or animals for a set period of time.
But the friggin' eye-rolling and the smart-mouthing has gotten really out of hand lately. And I will admit, even my best positive-parenting efforts seem to devolve of late into a yelling and finger-wagging spectacle.
Recognizing yesterday, again, that that wasn't getting us anywhere, again, I tried to pull him aside, again, after we'd both calmed down, again, to have, yes, again, another talk.
So, I'm sitting on the floor cross-legged and I've got him in my lap with both my arms wrapped tightly around him and I whisper into his ear how special I think he is and how amazing he is and how everyday he surprises me with something new and fantastic that I didn't know about him. And he smiles and his eyes fill with tears and he turns and wraps his scrawny little arms around my neck and squeezes with all his might.
"So what are we gonna do about this, bubba," I continue through teary eyes of my own.
And he pulls away and looks downward into his lap.
"What are we gonna do so that we don't end up in that place anymore?"
"I can try to listen when you tell me to do something the first time," he says.
"Sure, babe, but we've been here before, and you've said that before, and here we are again, so maybe we need to think of another way to solve this problem. Because it really hurts me to be upset with you and to see you so upset with me. So, what can I do to help us not get there that anymore?"
And this is when he breaks my heart. Tears it into a million tiny pieces. Drowns and dissolves it in a pool of my own salty tears. And it's mostly because in this moment he is exactly like me. He knows exactly what he needs to say. He knows how powerful words are. He knows how to use them. And, most painfully, he knows when.
"Mama," he begins, softly and timidly, but looking me right in the eye. "Mama, it's that you remind me of a witch when you yell and it scares me so much that I don't know what I should be doing anymore."
And I can no longer breathe.