When the kids are young, things feel hard and you dream of how much easier life will be when they're older. You dream of the day you'll be able to leave the kids alone without a sitter, of the day you can laugh and hang with them, without having to watch your words. You dream of not needing to prod and nag till you both want to scream. You dream.
It was a little over a year ago that the teenage vibe came crashing into our home. Too cool for school, too cool for anything. We had heard rumors of what to expect, but well, you know how it goes— not my child.
As kids get bigger, so do their problems, their homework, their attitudes. You can leave them home alone, but you can't be naive enough not to check who's there with them. Picking up legos shifts to picking up the slack. Watching your language shifts to nagging about theirs. Kid music and kid games sound like...a dream.
I've got a pretty straightforward style of parenting, of wife-ing, of being a friend. You know when I'm mad. You know when I'm sad. You know when I'm hungry. You know when I'm thrilled. You also know, regardless of how shitty you've acted, that I love you.
I will look you right in the eye, tell you how you've wronged me, how it made me feel, how you can do better. That you've acted like an asshole, but I still love you.
It's around this time last year that I began to joke with my older, 'unnamed' child that I was going to write a book. The title I was tossing around would be something along the lines of (or exactly):
So Your Kid's An Asshole, Now What?
It was a catchy title. It had a quippy and accurate ring to it. It was funny. We all laughed. And while I'd joke about chapter titles as the day-to-day parent/teen battles and bonds took place, there was a subtle twinge of truth that was surfacing on his face. Had he, in fact, felt, feared, faced and ultimately embraced the notion? I feared that he'd become the asshole— because I declared him one, even in my witty (shitty?) way.
Last Christmas before setting up our tree, I carefully wrapped two ornaments.
Me: These ornaments represent where I feel you are in your lives right now. (Hands kids 2 wrapped ornaments)
Him: What is it, an asshole ornament?
We all laughed. A lot. I knew he was okay.
The ornament was, in fact, a basketball. Hers was a pig.
I chose to step back from my asshole jokes, as words and their hidden messages are powerful. But I had one more...
For Christmas, I had one wrapped ornament— the ornament represented where we both were.
Regardless of where you are, who you are, how you act. You know when I'm mad. You know when I'm sad. You know when I'm hungry. You know when I'm thrilled. But you're still, and always will be— my favorite Asshole.
This year the ornament hangs proudly on our tree, next to the pig, and the basketball, and the paper cut-out of a penis.
Because— My Kid's An Asshole, Now What?