Wednesday, December 16, 2020

I might be an asshole. (But I'm okay with it.)

The other night, I found myself nostalgic and looking through the hashtag I'd made for my youngest baby on Instagram. I looked at all of his little chubby smiles and watched his sweet coo-y videos, feeling sad that I'll never again get to feel the way it feels to be loved by the innocent devotion of your own infant.

At bedtime, I gave each of my boys an extra kiss and looked at their faces a little bit longer. When I got to my oldest he declared, "I want to do something nice for you because of everything you do for Christmas. I'm going to make you breakfast in bed tomorrow!"

Luke is "in on it" when it comes to Christmas, if you know what I mean. He's also the most tender hearted person I've ever met, so his desire to do something sweet for me, presumably as a thank you gesture, was very adorable and well-intentioned, but perhaps bad timing. School mornings start with a quiet ritual of books and caffeine, followed by the chaos of dragging his unwilling, unexcited elementary aged little brothers through their day. There really isn't a good time for me to enjoy said breakfast in bed.

"That's very sweet of you," I responded. "But do you think you could move it to Saturday? That way I can really enjoy it without having to rush to working with your brothers, and I like to wake up and have my coffee alone on school mornings."

I'm not sure he fully grasps how important my quiet, ALONE coffee is to me in the mornings.

He kind of complained a little about how he wanted to get up early and for me to sleep in and relax. I reminded him that doing so on a school day will only make the school day harder. He persisted, but so did I, and I was under the impression that I'd finally convinced him to wait for the weekend by the time I left his room.

The next morning, I woke up to the sound of his excited voice in the kitchen - chatting away with his Dad about my morning coffee. It was 6am. Sighhhh.

A short time later, he came into my room and said, "I got your coffee! It's in the microwave so it doesn't get cold." Clearly, that meant I was on a timer and I popped out of bed, smoothed the blankets, and went off to brush my teeth. By the time I made it to my coffee and swirled in some creamer, it was already lukewarm.

And, because I'm a neurotic weirdo, I was perhaps unreasonably frustrated that he'd chosen a mug I'd never, ever choose for myself. 

I sat down in front of the fire (which, is not at all a fire, and actually just an electric heater with a fake fire animation built in, but that's the best we could do in this house right now), and attempted to enjoy my coffee. I lifted the awkward, foreign mug to my lips and sipped tepid coffee. Once. Twice. By the third I couldn't take it anymore. I'd tried to swallow my thoughts with my caffeine, but I finally felt so invaded - so inexplicably twitchy and impressed upon that I couldn't hold it in anymore. It didn't help that my usual dark, still, quiet morning was infiltrated by an 11 year old's constant chatter about video games, and his voice carried to his brothers' room and caused them to rise well before their usual wake time.

I stalked off to the kitchen to make a new pot of hot coffee and I returned to address Luke.

"Hey Luke, next time don't pour the coffee from the pot until I'm ready to drink it, okay? I appreciate you trying to do something nice for me, but it starts to cool off the second it leaves the pot."

"Oh...okay," he said dejectedly.

Oof. I hate making him feel bad, especially when he was attempting to be sweet. Was I an asshole? Should I have suffered through my unsatisfactory coffee and given up my quiet, peaceful morning to accept a gesture that....I didn't really want?

Maybe. But it's also true that I specifically asked him to postpone his gesture for a time when I could graciously accept it - when I was physically and mentally prepared to revel in it and appreciate it, and he ignored my request. My quiet mornings are imperative to my mental health during our virtual school days (and spoiler alert: this was the start of a very long, frustrating, and upsetting day.)

I vented about the morning to a few of my closest people - mostly because I felt as guilty as I did invaded - and one of my friends made a point about teaching young boys about boundaries. How they shouldn't get a free-for-all pass just because they were being sweet. Being sweet is not a permission slip to cross boundaries and ignore someone's wishes. A lesson that becomes even more important as they grow older and partner up. It was therapy through osmosis - her newly learned lessons being passed on in a new context, making clear why I felt so invaded and off-put by his kind gesture.  

And it was then that I realized what a strange and vital position I'm in right now.

I was raised in the 80's and 90's - where things were certainly changing, and sometimes extreme, but us girls were still largely groomed to be small and quiet and gracious. There were times as a child when I was chastised for not being "ladylike" enough. (Not by my parents, but the generation before them.) I went to a Catholic school with stuffy uniforms and stringent guidelines. I was trained to placate boys and men - to be gracious for their advances (or be called a vulgar name), to not dress too provocatively (or be blamed for their lack of control), to make myself small and unassuming in their presence (so as not to bruise their fragile egos). And even though Luke is my son and I'm in control here, my default reaction to his sweet though intrusive and inconvenient gesture was to smile and deal. But what is that teaching him about women?

See, he's on the right track. He knows now what Christmas costs me and wanted to let me know how he appreciates it, but he hasn't learned the fineses of human interaction. And that's okay! He's 11. He's taken cues from his Dad - who steps in when I'm overwhelmed, who throws flowers on the weekly grocery order when he knows I've had a rough week, who can tell I'm feeling down and offers to rub my feet. His heart is in the right place. But he didn't respect my request to reschedule his gesture or my reasons for why I wanted him to. And it's important that he learns that when people tell you how they feel, you have to respect that.

And it's a weird, weird feeling to know that I have a son that's old enough to need these lessons. 

My mind is still sometimes stuck in early motherhood. My boys still love to curl up in my arms and greet me with affection when they wake up in the morning, and it can be hard to remember that they're not my squishy little mom-devoted toddlers anymore. They are reaching a point in their development where it's vitally important for them to know how to treat people in a way that goes beyond sharing a toy or taking turns on the playground. And it's odd how often I catch myself in my previously programmed ways when I've made such a point to infuse our household with acceptance and respect for women. I've got three future men under my roof that I hope will one day constructively contribute to the social fabric of our society in positive and loving ways. Regardless of who their life partners end up being.

So, I dunno, maybe I am an asshole. Maybe I'm unnecessarily neurotic in my need for the mornings to unfold a certain way. But maybe I'm also just a mom with a thread of feminism running through her, with no previous boy experience (our family only made girls prior to my kids' generation), who wants to make sure that above all, her sons become kind, respectful, and sympathetic people.

Jury's out.

No comments:

Post a Comment