We are fully immersed in our adventures in Tweenville and it has not been pretty. My otherwise easygoing son is now anything but.
He has begun to assert himself—not ideal, but also not totally unexpected. However, the most frustrating new development is CJ’s attitude—a really unpleasant one especially when he isn’t getting what he wants or expects.
Last weekend we discovered—when we asked CJ to locate his project assignment sheet—that the very organization that he devised, and we bought supplies for, had been tossed aside. Now, all five subjects were jammed into one folder. When questioned about it, he gave us a million and one reasons for why it no longer worked.
We gave him one week to come up with something better.
Yesterday, I sat with him and he outlined what he needed from the office supply store. Today before school, he asked me if I was going to go and I assured him that I would take care of it.
Cruising through the mecca of organization evident in the aisles of the store, I searched and searched until I found what CJ had described. I even got cool neon adhesive tabs that he could use to delineate his subjects. Call me crazy, but I was excited that I found what he had wanted.
Picking him up from school, he asked, “Did you get my supplies?”
“Yeah. Here they are.” I said, smiling, as I handed them to him in the back seat.
Less than 30 seconds later, the bag was ceremoniously placed back in the front seat.
“That’s. Not. Going. To. Work.”
His clipped tone was bad enough, but I failed to understand how what I bought—specifically what he requested—was no longer “going to work.” However, with a carpool in the car, I wasn’t about to address it with an audience.
A little while later, he was completing the last little bit of his homework where he was coloring some illustration and I walked in to try and understand what wasn’t “working” with the supplies I bought.
When I asked him what was going on, he wouldn’t even look up at me. Instead he just said, “You didn’t buy what I wanted. Now, I have stuff to do, so can we be done?”
Ummmm. I think not. A little voice inside my head shouted, “Oh no he didn’t!” And as much as I was sooo close to repeating that phrase, I didn’t.
“CJ, you’re going to put that pencil down right now and we’re going to discuss why you think it is okay to speak to me like that—especially after I went out of my way to try and get the things you said you wanted.”
You know, he’s a kid. I get that he doesn’t understand all that goes on in an adult’s day. But this wasn’t ok. I was not his servant, maid, housekeeper, cook, errand girl etc. and even if I was, he shouldn’t be speaking like that to anyone.
To his credit he stopped coloring, but still held onto the pencil and just looked at me in silence.
It was a standoff and it was my move.
My first reaction was to pull the drawing away from him and address it right then. Initially I told him how frustrated I was with his attitude and complete lack of any form of gratitude, that there wasn’t even a simple thank you. He looked at me blankly in return.
This wasn’t working. I slid the paper back to him.
“After you finish that homework you have another assignment. You need to look up the word ‘gratitude’ and I want you to make two lists: one that has all that we do for you, and another which lists what you do to contribute to the family and how you express your gratitude.”
About thirty minutes later CJ sheepishly came up to me with his lists. The length of each side spoke louder than what I could have said directly to him.
He apologized; we hugged, and talked about how he could have communicated the same message but in a way that acknowledged that someone went out of their way on his behalf.
I realize that my adventures in Tweenville are only just beginning. Did I handle it the right way? I have no idea. I know—like anything—I can always do better, but at least for now I hope some small part of my message got through to him.