i’m going to preface this story by stating: black mothers are historically known for complete intolerance of public foolishness as displayed by their children. like if you ever happen to happen upon a black children in full tantrum you will notice other black children collectively holding their breath and clinching their teeth silently praying for their ill tempered sistren. they do this because they know that tantrum will have huge cost. sooner or later. so…
he turned around staring right at me with his eyes full of tears and i could tell we were moments away from a full out ugly cry. i had no idea what happened in the 3 seconds he was not by my side. had he just witness a trauma? did someone yell at him? was he pushed? i was all of 6 paces behind him but quickly closed the gap ready to knock the shot out of whoever had harmed my baby.
“ITS CLOSED!” he whines. “FYE IS CLOSED AND NOW I CANT GO SHOPPING!!!!!”
now i’m not an insensitive ass of a parent. i hugged him and told him that’s too bad that they were closed. i straight followed the manual. i was empathetic and validating. these were his feelings and i’m not in the business of belittling kids’ feelings. then he wipes his face turns around to see if the puppy dog eyes are going to work on the people packing up the store. they don’t so he turns to me.
“THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!” and then in this mid-america den of iniquity called a mega mall, he storms off.
it took everything in me not to reach into the origins of my black motherhood training manual and NOT snatch him up and take him into the family restroom for a brief consultation with Jesus. i said my prayer, “Lord don’t let me hurt this child.” and then I yelled, “TAKE ANOTHER STEP AND SEE WHAT I DO!” he stopped in his tracks turned and gave me MY LOOK!
i had to do deep breathing and prayer work before speaking. before i’m in conversational ear shot he’s in full rant, “YOU MADE ME COME OUT HERE! JUST TO GET SHOES AND NOW FYE IS CLOSED AND I CANT GO GET THE MOVIES I WANTED OR TOYS! THIS IS YOUR FAULT WE COULDVE JUST GON TO THE OTHER MALL!!”
i reached into the purview of my professional training as a mental health therapist and decided to pull out a nugget from my parenting instructor tool box.
i said, “i get that your disappointed. but speaking to me like this is disrespectful and unacceptable. i’m willing to hear what you have to say but i’m not doing the blame game.”
and then i started walking back toward out exit. he was still pretty upset but had his huffing and puffing down to a minimum. i could hear the wheels creaking in his brain. he wasn’t going to let this go.
out exit was through this kids’ clothing store that happened to have school pants on sale for 10 bucks. i go to the rack and start handing him pants in his size and the next size up. he’s already holding a box of shoes we just spent 2 hours picking. i turn to head toward the fitting room but don’t see him and the pants are thrown over the rack. i look down and my kid is spread eagle on the floor of this ridiculously overcrowded store fuming.
at this point i’m like, “love and logic can kiss my ass.”
i bend down and whisper, “you have 3 seconds to get off that floor and grab those pants!” he gets up, gathers his stuff and starts to open his mouth.
“it’s time to BOSS UP and get a plan for your life! you have too many options! too many choices!! having a tantrum in the middle of school shopping shouldn’t be one! fye being closed today isn’t your biggest problem! you didn’t even have a plan for what you wanted from fye you just wanted to go in there to look around! BOSS UP!! GET! YOUR! LIFE!”
at this point he was in full moon child stance. he gives me MY LOOK again and whispers through clinched teeth, “you. are. so. embarrassing.”
i’m thinking, “baby, i’m saving the real embarrassing shit for your teenagedom.” but instead i lead him to the dressing room because $10 pants. but i’m deciding if i’m embarrassing and if it matters. we get to the dressing room and because it’s private he’s ready to let me have it.
“well. i thought about my options and i feel like i did have a plan. it was my money and i worked hard to earn it. i wanted to go to fye but you changed at the last minute and made us come here. it’s frustrating when you change plans and i don’t have a say. and it’s embarrassing when you yell things like ‘BOSS UP’ in the store.”
i’m processing these things coming out of my 9 year old. he’s made some really valid points. i do in fact change things at the last minute a lot. and i can see how my behavior would be embarrassing. but most importantly i’m pretty impressed that i’ve raised a 9 year old boy to be this articulate about his emotional state of mind. so i was kinda patting myself on my back while deciding next step. and his next size pants turned out to be his now size pants so i was distracted too.
i say,”well it’s embarrassing to me when you lay down on the floor and throw a temper tantrum. it’s also quite inconsiderate of you to be yelling and blaming me for something i had nothing to do with, how was i to know the store would be closed?”
his face scrunched up and he left out of the dressing room. i was looking for the end of the line and he was having another meltdown by the belts. i go over to him and say, “there are people all around us with way bigger problems than fye being closed. you need to decide what you want to do and stick to that plan.”
his eyes cleared up and he says, “well I think we both owe each other an apology. i apologize for being ungrateful and having a tantrum.now you apologize for embarrassing me.”
this is the part when i realize my 9 year old has more sense than me, cause without thinking i say, “do I have to?”
he actually sighed at me.
“ugh. i didn’t mean to embarrass you. i apologize.”
that’s when he took my hand and started telling me his plans for acquiring 1,000 Pokemon cards.