Thursday, February 01, 2007

Shame cookie

One of the frustrations of balancing school and parenting is that each semester brings a new schedule. We're only a couple weeks into the new semester, so our morning routine has been inconsistent again. This is exacerbated by the fact that Trillian's had a run of migraines that have messed with her sleep cycle; I've had a few bad nights myself. And so Wednesday morning, I left the alarm off and let Scooter decide when we'd get moving.

Sure enough, he padded into our room at about 7:30, smiling, toy in tow. I got up, settled him in at his train table, and told him I was going to take my shower. This is generally not a problem, and he can wake Trillian up if he needs something.

When I came out of the bathroom, only partially dressed, he had a cookie. I did a quick survey and realized that Trillian was still in bed. (And no, cookies are not a normal breakfast food, but it has happened before.) I decided to ask anyway: "Did Mommy get that for you or did you get it for yourself." I eyed the box that was up on the counter, far up and back. "For myself," came his response. I smiled despite myself, mussed his hair, and said, "Oh, OK. You can finish that up."

Back to the bathroom to finish up, get the rest of my clothes on. Come back out. The cookie he's eating looks bigger than it did before. "Did you get another cookie?" I ask (and count the cookies in the box--yes, there's one fewer). "Scooter, you're supposed to ask before you have a cookie."

He puts the cookie back down on the table. And I realize his eyes are looking red. "Oh, sweetie. I'm not angry. I just don't want you to take a cookie again without asking. But you can finish this one." I hand it back to him. He reluctantly takes it and then throws it down. No cookie, no way.

Now I recognize how ridiculous parts of this are from the outside: I didn't bother to correct him with the first cookie, probably even encouraged him with the smile, and then I got on him about the second cookie, but still wanted him to finish it. All sorts of inconsistent messages.

But really, this is about something else. I wrote a couple months ago that, even though I had initially wanted a girl, I was thankful I had a boy first because it kept me from over-identifying with him. Yet as I also noted in that post, the irony is that he exhibits so many of my personality quirks. Most of the time, Trillian says, "He is so your son," and we laugh. But then there's a morning like this, and I'm reminded that he gets the bad with the good.

Those eyes, reddening as the tears threatened. I knew the shame he was feeling, the desire to disassociate from what made him feel that way. I remember feeling like that far too often, way out of proportion to the act, over stupid stuff. And I know that I can't protect Scooter from ever feeling that way--it's going to happen, that's the way we're programmed.

But I'd like to spare him as many of those moments as I can.

(Of course, when he got home from school, he promptly finished the cookie off.)

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