Thursday, January 19, 2012

Backpedal

While driving our car into work one day, a cyclist hit Tom.  The cyclist was so mad about it (blaming Tom, even though Tom was stopped at a light and the cyclist ran into him) that he slammed his fist down on our side mirror breaking it.  Had the guy used his backpedal, perhaps he could have avoided the incident and we would still have our mirror.  Of course, hHindsight is 20/20, but the backpedal is not something to be ignored.  Even if this guy had backpedaled after hitting Tom and seen the error of his ways, I'm sure they could have spoken cordially to one another before going on their way.  However, this guy was so angry that he broke the mirror, screamed at Tom and then kept biking.  No backpedal used, either literally or figuratively.

Over Christmas Sean and I had some conflicting moments.  Not that it's surprising.  He's two and a half, it's the holidays, we were traveling across the country to St. Louis, it makes sense that there would be some tantrums.  One night, after a particularly rough evening, I laid down next to Sean just before going to sleep.  Face to face, we quietly talked:

me: It was a pretty tough night, huh, buddy?

Sean: Yeah.

me: I get really frustrated when you don't use your words.

Sean: sometimes I get upset.

me: I know, and sometimes I get really frustrated because you whine and cry instead of telling me what you need or want.

Sean: yeah.

me:  But I want you to know that no matter how angry or frustrated I am, I will always love you.  Even if we get upset with each other and I am very angry, I will always love you.

Sean thought about this for 3.5 seconds, and then slightly shaking his head up and down (as if agreeing with himself before even speaking), he said,

Sean: I... will always... love....   Dada.  (then quietly to himsefl) Yeah.  Yeah.

Sha-bang!  Just like that!  I couldn't believe it.   He wasn't kidding, and he could not have been more earnest. No backpedaling. Then,

Sean: and I... will always... love....  Audrey.

Oooooookay, and now by process of elimination, we have only one family member left...

Sean: and I... will always... love.... Mama.

He engaged his backpedal at the precise last moment possible.  The next night, Tom was putting Sean to sleep, and I had stepped into his bedroom to grab some dirty laundry.  Tom could see me but Sean could not.  They were saying prayers.

Sean:  I love Dada, and I love Audrey.

Tom:  and what about Mom?

Sean: (as if this were a silly question) Nnnnoooooo! Not Mama!

Tom: Not Mom?

Sean: (laughing) Nnnnnooooo!

Though I had stood there silently, I could no longer hold my tongue.  I audibly gasped, and Sean whirled around.  His face was still alight with a mischievous grin, and when he heard my voice, he laughed all the harder.  Commence the backpedal.

Sean:  I mean, I DO love Mama!  I Do!

me:  That's not what you said!

Sean: I do love Mama, I do!

It was a subsequent evening when Tom was out of town that I had the worst night with Sean.  He had his fill of the holidays, the big meals with cousins, the sharing of toys that were not his own, the feeling of being the youngest walking, able-bodied cousin, and he just melted down.  The beginning of the tantrum is non-sequitor: he didn't want me to flip on the light to the stairs because he wanted to do it himself, but then he didn't want to turn the light off so that he could turn it back on.  A 35-minute tantrum ensued, complete with me wrestling him to the ground for his diaper and pajamas.  This time there was no heart-to-heart between us before going to sleep. He went straight to bed that night, without any stories or prayers.  The next morning, Sean woke me early wanting me to get up and make his breakfast.  I had not slept well and was still so livid from the tantrum the night before that when he started whining and crying about breakfast I snapped.

me: Sean, I listened to you whine and cry all last night.  If you're going to whine and cry now, then you can go upstairs and get your cereal yourself. 

He got off the bed and left.  I fell back asleep, thinking he would come back in and hit me with more whining and crying.  Instead, I fell back asleep for 30 minutes, and later found him in the dining room of my parents house sitting at the table.  He had a large tupperware veggie platter with Raisin Bran filling each of the 8 veggie containers and the veggie dip circle in the middle.  He was eating the Raisin Bran with a spoon, taking turns to retrieve said cereal from a different container with each bite.  He looked up at me when I came into the room.

Sean: I did it by myself!

He beamed proudly.  My mom explained to me that she'd found this same scene when she came downstairs not but 5 minutes before me.  Clearly, Sean had been on his own, rummaging through cereal and tupperware containers for at least 25 minutes.  The mess on the table and his proud, proud face wore the details of 25 minutes we will never be privy to.

I sat down in the living room away from the chaos on the table, still annoyed by the conflict between us.  I was annoyed by his pride in getting his cereal, annoyed by his smiling face and the huge mess on the table and floor.  Sean got off his chair, followed me into the living room, gave me a kiss and said,

Sean: I love you so much.

He then turned on his pajama-footed heel and headed back to the table for his Raisin Bran a la veggie platter.

me: (to my mom) After all the headache and frustration of last night, and then he does this!

my mom:  He has been nothing but sweet this morning.  He's used his words, he got his cereal out by himself, he's not said one negative thing.  Now it's up to you to let it go.

Leave it to my mom to put me back in my place.  She pointed out the need for me to backpedal.  I was still frustrated from his actions 12 hours prior, and Sean had moved on.  He was on top of the world, Raisin Bran and veggie platter in hand, and he was having a great day.  It was up to me to take a moment, breathe, let go of the grudge I wanted to irrationally hold against my 2.5 year old son and move on with my day.  Backpedal.