The Who got really mad at me tonight. He wanted a bath instead of a shower and he didn’t want me to tell him to stop singing when he was singing. I’m not sure if there were other things. Maybe he was also just really tired. And maybe he was sensing my horrible mood. But whatever the combination of factors was, he was pissed. And he was acting out in tiny ways that slowly escalated. First, by mewing like a kitten — the way he always does when he is sad and wants to make sure I know it. But that got on my nerves and so I nipped it in the bud, which I’m sure didn’t help him any. Then he was doing subtle passive-aggressive things like putting things down with a thump or closing the door a little too roughly. He even started to tell me about it: “Mama, you made me put my socks on the bed and THEN climb off the bed with my WET towel!” But the next thing he did was swing his bathrobe around instead of put it down, swiping everything off the top of his dresser and I nailed him with a loud, firm voice and a threat of no stories.

M* came in at that point and I don’t remember the exact sequence of events, but within seconds, he was sobbing on her shoulder, saying how horrible I was and how I made him do all this stuff and how I made him want to kick me and I made him want to cut my face. I wasn’t mad. And I didn’t take it personally. I loved it. I loved that he was being given space to talk about how he felt instead of keeping it all inside or continuing to be passive-aggressive and never actually get a chance to feel it all the way through.

When he sat back down for me to put his socks on, I could see him looking up at me and I wasn’t sure if he was checking to see if I was angry or looking for something else, so I asked if he wanted a hug, which he immediately did. He said he felt sad and worried that he would feel sad forever. M* reminded him that he wouldn’t, even though it felt like he might and she understood that.

I cried when he hugged me, although I don’t think he saw it. I also held back laughter when he was so angry, but I don’t think he saw that either. I tried really hard not to let him. Sometimes his extreme anger and frustration makes me feel like laughing even though I don’t think it’s at all funny. I suspect it’s some kind of discomfort on my part. Some automatic reaction to feelings, which aren’t my specialty.

He’s so lucky. He’s so lucky to have m*, who today was his shoulder to cry on and who encouraged him to feel it all. He’s so lucky to have me, who has also been that for him at other times. He is so lucky to have a place in which to grow up where he is honored and valued and listened to and I’m so lucky that I get to keep witnessing it. Keep seeing what it’s like to have an emotion, express it, feel it, move through it, and be done with it. What gifts we all keep giving one another.

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