I remember the nurse handing him to me and telling me that she was going to pray for me. "Why?", of course, I had to ask. "I've been a neonatal nurse for 30 years and I've never had a baby grab and pull a naso-gastric tube completely out". He had meconium because he was born late and it's the procedure they use to get it out of babies' tummies. She commented on his fierceness. Her words haunted me for years. She wasn't wrong.
The Kid (he's an adult, so I am respecting his privacy) had not completely mastered walking by the time this party was held, but from the age of 9 months, he had been speaking paragraphs. Full paragraphs that strangers understood.
His first actual sentence was, "Look, Momma, lello porse" which was his version of "Look Momma, yellow porsche". He was right, too. A throaty brilliant yellow porsche had pulled up next to us and was revving the engine. He screamed with delight. I put down the window. The louder he screamed, the more encouraged the driver was and the more he revved it up. When it pulled away, The Kid was distraught. I know he wanted one. He had the plastic version in one hand. In the other was his favorite Jaguar Car. When he ran out of hands, he carried them under his chin and his armpits.
Forget Sesame Street. We watched car shows. We watched car auctions, car repair shows, the most obtuse channels. OK, we watched Sesame Street, but only when Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and Count Dracula were "doing their thing".
Everything he had was car-related. He was obsessed with keys. He was into dinosaurs for about ten minutes until he realized that they didn't have engines. I even made him a stuffed "snuggle car" out of brightly colored felt. It was giant and he laid all over it to watch car shows. I still have the pattern for it.
Yes, we did sit down regularly at the dining table and made it clear, in brief and frequent meetings, what, exactly would happen should he be suspected of using drugs and alcohol or otherwise behave in self-destructive ways. No threats. No confrontation. Fair warning. Swift and severe consequences.
There were lots of negotiations. My husband referred to our parenting style as "Let's Make A Deal without the banana costumes". The Kid was a challenge because he was so smart and was a tough negotiator.
The Kid called one night, actually, very early in the morning and said, "Let me talk to Dad". No "hello"...no, "Did I wake you?", "I'm sorry" blah blah blah.
I heard my husband start talking, excitedly, about bug bombs and how you have to think about them like a "full-on tent extermination". The pilot lights have to be blown out, food wrapped, etc. "If you have a swarm of gnats, just open the sliding doors and they'll head for fresh air". Then, I heard him say, "Hello, hello?" He looked at me and said, "He hung up on me".
The bedroom lights started going on, one after another as if seeing the bedroom could help solve the problem. You know how you turn down the car radio so you can read the street signs better? Oh stop laughing. You know what I mean.
Dad called back. Apparently, we know nothing about anything including using bug bombs. My husband tried to explain how his Uncle Charlie used a few in the basement of his home and shortly thereafter, went down to work in the windowless space and ended up dragging an oxygen tank behind him for the rest of what was to be, a shortened life.
Na-da. The Kid heard nothing. Now, he and his 3 roommates were on their way to Albertsons' market, in their pajamas, to get some bug bombs. Situation critical.
Back and forth, hang ups disguised as "lost signals", attitudes growing more contentious. The hubs is now out of bed, putting on his pants, ready to get in the car and keep The Kid from killing himself and others. Typical Super Dad. He was going to rescue him. Not me. I wanted to fry him, but in the most loving, kind, motherly way possible. Heh, heh, heh...
Me: "Take your pants off. Get back in bed. I'll be right back."
Dad: "No, I've got to get going."
I quickly returned to the bedroom and called the campus police. The hubs stood there, half-dressed. He couldn't wait to hear what was next. Brilliant. Call in the troops.
I explained to the officers the nature of what was going on. They weren't happy; not one little bit. I asked them to intervene. "And, when you encounter the really mouthy one, he's probably mine. Get in his face like a Parris Island Marine DI and let him know his mother called you on him. He hung up on his father and that doesn't fly in this family."
I got a crisp, "Yes ma'am" and it was on. I got the sense they mostly encountered parents whose little darlings never did anything wrong. Oh no, not this mother. I live in Real Land. I work every minute of my life as a pediatric psychologist and I've been "there".
Long about 45 minutes later, I got the call. Not Dad, me. The howling laughter of the other residents in the background almost drowned out his yelling at me. "You know. You're a Psycho Mom. What mother calls the cops on her kid?"
My turn. I know it's impossible to deal with people whose brains are floating in adrenaline and cortisol. Not talking to you, Kid. I hung up on him and took the phone off the hook and we turned off our cell phones. We had to work in the morning. Nothing more to say anyway. Proud of being the Psycho Mom. I did my job.
The moral of the story? I did what I always told the parents in my practice to do. Your first and most important job is to protect your child. Even if you have to protect them from themselves. In this case, he was about to do permanent harm to himself and the innocent people living in the residence hall. The stakes were high. Other people were involved.
If you have to get rabid, get rabid. If they won't listen to reason, resort to whatever it takes to keep them safe.
Yes, I've called the police on my kid clients. I've had them try to get over the railing to come after me in court because they were just so enraged. But, they're still alive and doing well. Some have even reached back to me and still tell me they couldn't believe I did it. It's the law. "I told you so when you came in and you still told me that you were going to kill yourself over the weekend. When you left my office and got home, the police were there to help you and they did a great job. Oh, you're in graduate school now? I'm really glad you're alive."
Yes, I've had practice at this. Now, I'm sharing it with you. We rent each others' courage, so I'm 'fessing up here.
Can you live with the consequences? There are no do-overs when the cops come to the door and they're looking distraught because they don't know what to expect when they tell you what you never wanted to hear.
Kid, I'm prepared to stand up to you. Watch me do it. I can handle your hurt feelings, your name calling, whatever.
You can hate me. At least you'll be alive to hate me. Watch me be strong.
Of course, the story has morphed over the years and just yesterday, The Kid was home and we were laughing about it. He still shakes his head. He's a very successful young man. We're proud to be his whacko parents.
What does he say now? "If you and Dad hadn't been so strong, I would have run all over you". Yeah, like we didn't know THAT...
Do the best you can, just don't be sorry. Claudia
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