Lately his attitude has been so bad that I've begun to wonder if the downhill slope from six to seven is a slide into certain juvenile deliquency. He shakes his fist at me when ask him to put on his clothes. He shouts at me when I wonder when he'll finish his homework. He grits his teeth. He kicks his sister. And then, just when I think he's become as hardened as Tony Soprano, he sobs inconsolably over a missing sock or the discovery that we're out of "Triple Berry O's."
Some time ago, our pre-school teacher suggested I read a series of child development books which distill each year into a handy Cliff's Notes size tome. According to these books, my 4 year old was "Wild and Wonderful" and my 5 year old was "Sunny and Serene." I'm wondering if my seven year old will be "Incarcerated or Institutionalized."
A couple of days ago, I was talking with two of my dear friends, both mothers to six and half year old boys. "You look tired," they said. "How are you?" they asked.
"It's been pretty rough." I said. "Theo is crying all the time. Or yelling all the time. One or the other."
They both looked relieved. "You, too?" We all started to talk at the same time. Threats, tears, violence, remorse. All part and parcel of being almost seven. And all happening in other houses all over our neighborhood. Normal kid stuff. I had almost forgotten one of the most important things you can do as a parent. You can talk to other parents. Though what's going on in your house might seem like the fifth act of a Shakespearean tragedy, nine times out of ten, it's going on somewhere else too. Labeling something "developmental" is just another way of saying it's not going to stay that way. I think suddenly of the now defunct Polaroid photo. Holding that blank square and waiting for the image to develop was one of the pleasures of my youth and young adulthood. My boy is emerging, he's developing. It's hard work. He's entitled to be cranky and crazy and crying. Just as I am entitled to be all of those things in the hard process of becoming a parent. Because I'm developing, too.
Today, I played two games of Yahtzee, three games of Trouble and too many rounds of Connect 4 to count with a boy who sometimes calls me Mom and sometimes calls me "Turkey Pants." Today, he leaned against me and gave me kisses on the palm of my hand. Today he fed me a strawberry and told me he loved me. Tomorrow, the fever may be down and the hackles may be up, but it's only a stage.