Jonas has been himself in many myriad ways these past few days. I feel blessed with Jonas moments. Moments of calm and cuddling, moments of questioning, moments of frustration and anger, moments of pride and achievement, and, to keep me on my toes, moments that surprise and delight.
Let's read Hop on Pop, he said Sunday night. There he was, the night before school, pulling out the book I'd told him he would be able to read by the end of the summer. And myself, I'd not worked with him this summer as I'd hope to. I spent so much of my time helping Leo read his required reading, encouraging and pushing him to write that I had no time to work with Jonas. I'd read with him, fun books that we enjoyed, lots of Magic Tree House and such, but we didn't take the time to pour over words and letters. And deep down in his being he'd remembered. He remembered that he was going to be able to read this book before school began. And, ... he did! It would be overkill to say to what degree I was proud of him. But I was, quietly, marvelously, richly proud of this discreet yet profound little boy.
Earlier that day it had been quite a different story. This little boy has adopted a most serious habit of cursing, and cursing and cursing -- in French granted, but when in France, the vulgarity isn't hidden by that lovely accent. Les gros mots spew in a torrent from his mouth, in his soft little boy voice, For someone who doesn't understand what he's saying, it almost sounds gentle and pleasant. Little do they realize! He's truly a little French boy who just happens to speak English. He's never spent time in an English-speaking school yard, thus -- for the moment --his English vocabulary has yet to be enriched in such a fashion.
Just the other day he said to me, Mommy, why do all these words exist if we shouldn't say them? Ah yes, why indeed?
So, finally, I decided to take an age-old threat and turn it into action. Yes, I would wash their mouths out with soap (for one, for all, right?). Thus, a drop of soap for he who curses (my own children, I wouldn't dare with one who wasn't mine, but I have stated to the others that cursing is simply not permitted in my house). And yes, we've had a few drops so far. Each time far worse, each time the anticipation, the disgust, the annoyance, the anger grows. Jonas declares himself helpless. He just can't stop. That's why, I respond, I've changed my tactics. With a little unpleasant reminder he will learn to stop, I assure him.
With Leo it's almost a game. He's not going to give in, even if he is well aware that he's at fault. So, I trick him, put a touch of soap on my mouth and wipe it on his lips. That does the trick. But with Jonas, it is far from a game. And, I'm not going to in any way physically force him. I do however, stand firm. He simply won't have lunch till he's taken his drop of soap. I don't get angry. I serve Leo and his friend. I clean up, having carefully put Jonas' lunch aside. Then I go upstairs to read a bit. Jonas clings sulkily to me. Rather than brooding in his room, he is in my space. He is on my bed, alongside me. But, he is in a foul humor. He's mad at me, at himself, at the situation in general. He kicks, taps, but doesn't say a word. I take the jolts in, and stay calm. I speak gently, ask him how else does he think we're going to rid him of this vulgar habit? If he has another suggestion, by all means share it. But in the meantime, kicking me isn't going to help anything. Yes, I know he's angry, but, such is life. Best to get the (minor) punishment over with and continue with our day.
It took easily a half hour of this, when suddenly Jonas called out to his brother to pardon him his insults. Leo accepted his apology with grace.
Looking at me, Jonas said he was getting awfully hungry. I said fine, let's go get this over with. Perhaps a drop of soap on a spoonful of honey?
Did he still have to have soap? He'd apologized....
Yes, I said, but it'll be over quick, and then you can have your home-fried potatoes, and there's ice cream for dessert. Alright. And together, quietly, and calmly, we descended the stairs.
I just needed patience. It's frustrating to know you've put yourself into a bind. Lashing out at the unfairness (or fairness) of it all is just normal. And then, with a bit of time, internal reasoning, hunger and knowing that I was just there work upon him. This is how he functions.
But, let's end on a high note. A little boy who's ever so proud of his advances in swimming. Come with me Mommy. I want you to come swim with me. Ok, I'll be right there as soon as the quiches are in the oven. And, ten minutes later I was there, watching, laughing, teaching, supporting, excited and delighted. One happy and very proud boy was showing off what he's now can do with relative ease. Never again will he fall into a pool and sink to the bottom! He can tread water, swim a ways, and he knows it. Fear will be banished, past experiences put in their place.
And as I lay beside him putting him to bed, tears came to my eyes. Corny maybe, but I rarely, rarely cry. But I love them so very much, and it just feels so right to be there to the utmost. Every nuance tugs at me. Little else in this life matters as much.