Things are a lot simpler when J doesn’t have a nightmare. It is easier to let him be jolly and not worry about what is causing it than seeing him cranky and wondering why it’s happening. He was cranky this morning…he was demanding and anxious…he was a pain in the ass.
There are issues on which I will give in more easily than on others. Popcorn for breakfast isn’t one of them. Mr. Stormy-Look had walked down to the kitchen making an obvious effort to be Mr. Sunny-Look, but as soon as he selected waffles with syrup for breakfast, he made a 180 and asked for the breakfast of champions instead: microwave popcorn. His mother, that unfair woman who doesn’t understand him and makes his life impossible, said NO. Cue the melodrama. Mr. Stormy-Look added some clouds and thunder to the mix and stomped around like it was going out of style. Mother, that mean mean woman, still said NO. You will find me, for a few hours at least, on the list of the Most Hated People in History…on a lower rung than Hitler, but closer to the top than Captain Hook (he was, after all, afraid of a crocodile…and I’m NOT!)
The only explanations for J’s crankiness are the hot weather we’ve been dealing with (which, by the way, is nowhere near as bad as in other areas) and that he might have had a nightmare. The hot weather I can help alleviate in many ways, and I do. The nightmares, well, that’s another story entirely. One never knows when or how or why a nightmare will form itself and roil around in one’s psyche, but the average person will get up in the morning and announce “wow, I had the weirdest dream last night. It was FREAKY!!!” J, regrettably, doesn’t have that ability…so we deal with the ill-humor until it peters out…and we hope it peters out quickly.
J’s willingness to work on the things I put in front of him sometimes makes me lose focus. I get comfortable for a little while, and I don’t think it’s that I forget, but I do let my guard down. A mild tantrum appears, in comparison to his previous cooperative mood, like a regression, and not knowing what is causing it makes things harder for the rest of us. “But he seemed to be doing so well!,” we will say while looking at each other. In fact, he is still doing well, but J cannot help being human like the rest of us…
Yesterday morning, Mr. Sunny-Look woke up and came to the kitchen. With very little assistance on our part, he made himself two grilled sandwiches with ham and provolone for breakfast. The main part of the project was handling the panini press, and I did that because the surface gets hot, but I researched a bit online and I can get something marketed as Ove-glove for around $16 each at the department stores. This is basically a better-fitting oven mitt, and it will allow J to use the panini press with less danger of getting burned. Supervision, of course, will not be missing, but J might be able to better navigate through this task with the “gloves.”
In the mornings, while we wait for the bus, J likes to sing his song and practice his vocabulary. We now sing about the trees and how they are green. We sing about the colors of the things he’s wearing and the cars that drive by. We have progressed far enough that he gives out a hearty GOOD MORNING, LINDA to the aide on the bus. His enunciation, by the way, is improving quite a bit.
From time to time, though, I have no idea what J is thinking or why he is in a bad mood, and that unnerves me. This is something teenagers in general do…they stew, they simmer, they sulk. When J does it, it is a little more delicate because I cannot persuade him to talk about it; he simply reacts, and I’m left to negotiate some sort of peace with him. It is not an unfair description to say that, should the need arise for me to stand on my head to figure out what is bothering J, I will gladly do it.
We can generally tell the “I want to get my way” tantrums from the “something is bothering me” tantrums. J is also quite obvious when it comes to his attempts at bald-faced manipulation. The “wah wah WAAAH” cry is a dead giveaway, as is the small smirk that accompanies his “yeah-YAAAH” holler. When his nerves are expressed in a constant wave of spurts and crests, we know it’s real. And this morning it was real, and I still had to be stern. I don’t enjoy this part. Quite honestly, it’s exhausting, but if I relent too quickly, we will go back to J’s merciless manipulation. That point is not negotiable.
Our walk to the street to wait for the bus helped J’s mood. He sang his song (with gusto and emotion,) and we practiced vocabulary. He left in high spirits. For the afternoon I have scheduled some of the chores he most enjoys, and his walk, and three things he likes that he can choose from for lunch. Tomorrow is a holiday and we stay at home with Dada so I’ve scheduled the pool and, if we’re lucky, some firework watching at night, down by the river. Before bed tonight, we will sit and talk about the good things J’s done today, and this will perhaps help him have pleasant dreams.
We’ll see. It’s not a step back, it’s a moment to sit on the side of the road and watch a few vehicles zip by while we figure out why the car has sputtered. Thankfully, we have packed a sack lunch and we know some cool songs to entertain ourselves with…and the hats are clean, and the sun is bright and tomorrow is another day…