Monday, April 18, 2011

Macho Posturing Gone Horrible Wrong

Time to toss your birth control in the trash, people. Call your doctor and let them know that you are no longer in need of your prescription. I am going to tell you a story this morning that will be one hundred times more effective than your birth control pills at preventing pregnancy. I am going to weave you a tale of parental woe that will have you in tears. As is usually the case, this story involves my strong-willed, hard-headed, quintessentially unique, utterly frustrating youngest child—Nicholas.

Yesterday was a relatively nice day here in balmy Minnesota. It got up to about forty-eight degrees and the sun was shining. Ruanita and I decided that it was time to start on our mile-long list of Spring projects. On tap for yesterday was building two raised beds for our garden. We intend on having a wonderfully lush and productive vegetable garden this year. The first task at hand was to head to Home Depot to buy the lumber needed for the project. This meant taking the children with us. Being that it was 10:00am on a Sunday morning and we are not exactly church-goers, we were all still in our pajamas. Lucas initially balked at the idea of getting dressed and going to Home Depot, but when I promised to let him help me build the beds, he conceded and got dressed without issue. Sophie, who jumps at any and all chances to go anywhere—she doesn't care where we're headed as long as she gets to go, too—jumped up and immediately dressed herself for the day. Lucas doesn't care about clothes in the least and will put on absolutely anything you hand him. Sophie has her own style, but does a pretty good job at picking out her clothes, Nicholas, however, is a different story altogether.

Nicholas ambled nonchalantly toward his bedroom to dress himself. Ten minute later, he had not returned, so I went to his room to check out what exactly he was doing. Nicholas had pulled a sweater and an undershirt out of his drawer. He has this really adorable brown sweater with dogs on it that is actually quite cute on him. I begged him repeatedly to wear it last year and he refused. This year, as it is getting small on him, it has become his favorite sweater. I grabbed a pair of jeans out of his closet and handed them to him and implored him to get dressed so we could get going. Nicholas, of course, had other ideas.

He firmly stated that he was not going to wear jeans. He wanted to wear “comfy pants.” Nicholas refers to sweatpants as “comfy pants.” I explained that he could not wear a nice sweater with sweatpants. I should have just left it well enough alone and let him wear whatever he wanted. In hindsight, it was not a battle worth fighting. However, in the moment, I felt it was finally time to take a stand. I was tired of him wearing pajamas to pick Lucas up from school every day. I was tired of him wearing clothes two sizes too small for him. I was tired of him wearing long pants that hit above his ankles and long-sleeved shirts that barely made it past his elbows. I understand having “favorite” clothes, but once you outgrow them—once it becomes a chore to squeeze your body into them—it is time to move on. We were only running to Home Depot, but for once, I wanted my son to look like the normal everyday middle class kid he is rather than a refugee from the war-torn Middle East. So I—perhaps foolishly—took a stand.

I told him in no uncertain terms that he was NOT wearing his sweatpants with that sweater. I gave him a choice. Sweater and jeans or sweatpants and t-shirt. He could choose either one. Nicholas, however, was determined. He was absolutely going to wear the sweater of his choice and his old high-water sweatpants. We quickly entered into a battle of wills. I pulled out a pair of his favorite sweatpants and a matching t-shirt and laid them on his bed. I left the room, telling him that I was leaving in five minutes and that if he wasn't dressed, he would stay home with Ruanita, and Sophie, Lucas, and I would head to Home Depot. I then went about the task of getting myself dressed, as Nicholas slammed his bedroom door behind me.

Five minutes later, I opened the door to his bedroom to check on the progress he had made in getting dressed. As expected, he was not dressed. As a matter of fact, he had stripped down to his underwear and was laying in his bed all covered up. When I opened the door, he smiled at me. I almost lost it. I told him again that we were getting ready to leave and he would have to stay home—in his bed, even—the entire time we were gone. This did not appear to faze him. And it was a bluff on my part anyway because I really needed Ruanita to go with me to get the lumber. It was not a job I could do on my own. I slammed his bedroom door and loudly vented my frustration to Ruanita. She smiled at me as if to say, You started this whole thing, as I ranted and raved around the living room. I checked on Nicholas again, to find him still laying in his bed. At that point, I decided I should threaten him with something that he cared about. I pulled out the big guns and announced that he would be banned from playing the Wii the following day (he had already played his daily hour that morning) if he was not up, dressed, and ready to go in five minutes. He immediately burst into tears. Yep...I had hit him where it hurt.

A few minutes later, I peeked in to find him sobbing uncontrollably, with a pair of red sweatpants on. I caught him in the act of pulling a striped sweater over his head—a different sweater from the initial doggie sweater, but a sweater nonetheless. “Nicholas!” I screamed. “The whole point is that you can not wear a sweater with sweatpants!” He swung the sweater across the floor, climbed into his bed, and buried his head under his covers. His sobbing continued.

By this time, I was irate. Nicholas came into the living room, all splotchy and tear-streaked—and naked. “Momma...momma,” he cried. He attempted to climb into my lap. “Nicholas,” I said. “I love you, but I am not hugging and kissing on you when you are refusing to get dressed.” Again, he ran to the bedroom in tears. I was at my wit's end. We needed to go to Home Depot. I needed Ruanita to go with me, which meant Nicholas HAD to go. I had reached a point where I couldn't simply give in. I had created a major conflict out of thin air and was stuck waging a war I no longer cared about. It had dissolved into a battle of wills. His machismo versus my own—neither one of us men, but posturing in a robust, manly nature nonetheless. The parallels between my own little wartime offensive and the war in Iraq did not escape me.

Finally, I had had enough. I refused to fight the good fight a minute longer. I simply announced, “We're leaving. Come on Nicholas.” Nicholas trudged out of his bedroom, fully dressed. He was wearing the brown puppy-dog sweater and a pair of navy blue silky Nike wind pants with bright yellow stripes down the legs...and the pants were about three inches too short on him. He looked at me and, without a word, walked over to the front door, sat down, and put on his shoes. At that moment, Ruanita came down the stairs from getting dressed herself. She looked at Nicholas incredulously. Then she turned to face me. With a knowing grin on her lips, she said, “He just won, didn't he?”

Yep, he won.

2 comments:

Madgew said...

I would have let him wear the sweatpants with the sweater to begin with but that's just me and loosey goosey LA.

Shannon Ralph said...

That's why you are a wiser woman than me, Madge. :)

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