My oldest son has today off while my younger son has a half-day mid-week.
In the early mothering years, these school-free days were precious gifts of connection. At mid-life, however, I selfishly view them as invasions of my precious writing time.
At ten-thirty this morning, the 14 year old intruder arrives down the stairs asking for food.
“I’ll make you half a breakfast,” I say, without explaining why.
“Can you drive me to Matt’s after?” he asks, oblivious to anything I say beyond the words, Yes or No.
“I’ll drive you half-way,” I say, working to grab his flickering attention.
“Can I at least call and make plans?” He asks, deaf to anything I say without the word, “Yes,” and perturbed at the obvious postponement of his urgent need for immediate gratification on simultaneous fronts.
“You can dial HALF the numbers,” I say, finally reaching the tipping point of his receptive ability with the English language.
“Mom! I don’t want to do HALF of anything,” he exclaims, falling into the trap of my brilliantly-crafted coup.
I’ve waited for this moment all morning.
At first, I was just going to hand him a list of all the things he left “half” done: The recycling by the door (instead of in the car). The library books at the top of the stairs (instead of by the door.) The food left out on the counter; etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc…
But in the hours between my waking and his, I tempered my angst and redirected it toward a more productive outcome than simply venting.
My new and improved plan was to shift the list making to him, requiring that he record all the things he left ‘half” done before I’d meet any of his requests.
However, as the morning hours passed, I realized that my thoughts were still steeped in negativity, and so, I revised my plan of action, again– deciding to place the focus of the list to the tasks that he had completed all the way, once he had done so.
By the time I heard him stirring upstairs, a stroke of parental genius led me to add the “half” twist to my whole presentation– so that when he uttered those slyly extracted words,
“Mom, I don’t want to do HALF of anything,” I was prepared with the dramatic delivery of:
“Oh… But you do so many things HALF way!”
I watched as his scowl transformed into a smile, and I knew:
He gets it.
Without another word from me, he turns to take the recycling ALL the way to the car, while I cook him up a FULL breakfast.