February 4, 2011
The Five W’s
“Zachy, get over here NOW!!” I yell at my son’s retreating form, little legs pumping ridiculously fast around our house, his tightly clutched Jessie, Woody and Buzz dolls perilously close to being left behind in his wake. It’s only 9:13 AM on yet another snow day (apparently, Jersey has relocated to Canada and someone forgot to tell me), and I’m experiencing my third fruitless attempt to corner my child onto his potty seat. I’m already completely over this day (and at the moment, children in general), and the fact that my three-year-old can outrun his middle-aged mama is only pouring salt into the already gaping wound of unpredicted child care. I finally corner him on the couch, airlift him and his screaming protests to our half bath, and attempt to partially disrobe him without relegating baby Jessie to the cold calm of our toilet.
After a few foiled attempts that almost land my child into the depths of the porcelain god I admit defeat, scoop him up, and tell him he’s going to time-out. This is met with a predictable amount of resistance, coupled with a parting gift of “No Mom, YOU GO TO TIME OUT!” as I dump him unceremoniously onto the black chair that is our current receptacle for bad behavior. I take a deep breath and turn away, trying desperately to locate my “happy place” that at this moment could only have existed pre-child, and march into the kitchen to check on Justin. He throws his arms around me, smiles, then goes back to entertaining himself with his DVD player (he is SO my favorite at this moment), and I unclench my hands as I realize there’s still eleven (yes, I’m counting) hours left until bedtime. I really don’t see myself hounding him to pee twelve more times today without having to break out the wine far too early (although it’s almost 5:00 PM in Paris, I’ll have to keep that in mind), and I realize a new measure must be taken in order for me to retain some semblance of my flagging sanity. I am mentally calculating how long I can keep him on his wooden throne without having the added bonus of carpet cleaning, when it hits me.
He wants ME to go to time-out? Fine. He’s going to hear about my two trips to the naughty chair (I was the first child and a girl, cut me some slack here) from MY mother, and then he’ll surely see the error of his ways.
That’ll get him.
I retrieve the phone from the last place I left it and punch in my mom’s numbers, praying not only that she’ll pick up, but that she’ll play along. I stride back into the living room to be greeted by a grand “HARRUMPH!” from my youngest child, complete with arms and legs crossed and sour expression upon his small, and at this moment, entirely irritating countenance. The phone rings and rings, and just as I resign myself to extra loads of laundry my mom picks up, and I put her on speaker. Zach loves his grandma and (for the most part) listens to her commands without reservation, and I silently pray that he’ll want to engage in this conversation, and that she’ll get the point. I start out by having to prod him to say “hi” to her which doesn’t bode well for our exercise, but eventually he’s intrigued by the concept of talking to her, and he begrudgingly takes the proffered phone.
I look him straight in the eye and say “Grandma, did you ever have to put Zach’s mommy in time out?” He sits up straighter, intrigued by the concept of mommy gone bad, and stares back at me as my mom says “Yes, Zach, when your mom was a little girl and did bad things, she went to a time-out chair too.”
A look of shock passes over my son’s face, either from the concept that I too was a miscreant of society, or that I once was a little girl. At this point, I’m not certain which is more fascinating.
“Grandma, why did Mommy go there?”
“Sometimes she was a bad girl, Zach.”
“What did she do wrong?”
“She didn’t listen to her Mommy.”
“Who is her Mommy?”
“I am. I’m your Mommy’s mommy.”
He’s been told this many times before, but I can see that it has finally sunk in. His eyes light up in amazement, then he apparently moves on, and says “where are you, Grandma?”
“At my ‘real’ house, honey” (not to be confused with Grandma’s beach house, the existence of which has already created great confusion for Zach, as he couldn’t understand how anyone could live in two homes. Since he loves it there, I am confident he will get over it).
“When are you bringing me Grandma brownies?”, which of course is the main point of any conversation he has with my mother, because chocolate rules here, and he is most certainly his mother’s son.
“Soon honey. Next time I see you.”
This response meets with his approval, and I thank my mom for backing me up with this attempt at discipline, and sever our connection. We run through the typical “sorry mom for not listening”/hug/kiss/”I’ll never do it again” (the last of which, sadly, is a blatant lie), and I free him from his stationary bondage, after which he promptly runs out of the room to harass his brother.
Ten hours, fifty-two minutes to go.
I rally myself with the promise of tiny, frozen Reeses Pieces from heaven awaiting me patiently in my freezer, and make my way to the kitchen to play referee. It’s going to be a trying day, but I have to smile anyway, because this is the longest stretch of dialogue incorporating “wh” questions without prompting that my son has ever had. Sure, he conducted it in the naughty seat, and it’s doubtful the way this day is playing out that I’ll even retain the scene long enough to share it with my husband, but it happened. Not just a sporadic why here or there, or it’s popular twin when, the latter of which appears repetitively whenever the potty or bedtime is mentioned. No, today I got them all, all five of the major players in a row, those cornerstones of dialogue that would enable him to ask for directions if he wasn’t male, perhaps encourage him in the future to inquire as to the mental health of his mother, and hopefully, one day, allow him to get the girl. All five of those tiny interrogatives, cloaked in conversation, wrapped up in a bow of promise.
Who, what, where, when, and why.