For over a year now, I’ve worried about my older son’s attitude (he is nine now). Whenever we asked him to do something around the house, we got a mouthy response, which was followed by a time-out (for him, not us.) I grew concerned that this was a sign of worse things to come. I imagined teenage years filled with disregard for authority and weekends spent talking at him through a plexiglass window. (I say talking “at” him because I had pictured him flopped back in his chair, arms folded over his chest and eyes rolled up to the ceiling.)
I found no comfort in the assurances of
warriors parents who survived raising children and now told me that it was “just a phase.”
Over a month ago, tired of being told how mean I was, I began to charge him a quarter for every time he called me “mean.” He already thought I was mean, so really, I had nothing to lose by living up to his perceptions, and everything to gain. (Well, I gained $2.75 that first week.) Three weeks later, I’m happy to report that he earned his full allowance this week without penalties for honesty 🙂
As quickly as he entered the smart-aleck phase, he seems to have become kind again. This growth ring in the trunk of his life might have an official name, but I call it the, “Oh-my-goodness-maybe-I’m-not-a-total-failure-and-maybe-he-won’t-end-up-in-juvie” phase. I also wonder in the back of my mind if he’s been abducted by aliens. I’d really like to know so I can offer my younger son to them at the beginning of the previous phase.
On Sunday, I was surprised when he wanted to go to the grocery store with me. He brought his wallet and the $12 he earned from selling some toys at a garage sale on Saturday. He wanted to buy a passion fruit or a dragon fruit, neither of which are in season right now, so he settled on a bottle of lemonade. It’s good he has his own money, because I would not have spent $1.82 on lemonade, but he said it was the “best lemonade he’s ever had.” I must be mean since I have deprived him of this for his entire life.
In the nine years I’ve known him, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. He’s always had a different way about him. Even so, I was a bit surprised when he kept searching through the floral department. As I browsed the gift card rack nearby, I noticed he kept picking up plants and putting them down. After about eight plants, I asked him what he was looking for. His response: “A plant I can afford.”
We determined that he wanted to spend under $5 on a plant. He finally found one for $3.99 that he loved. The tag simply read “Foliage.”
Here’s the deal. I am a plant murderer. I have good intentions, but I have managed to kill every plant I have ever owned: Ficus, Coleus, African Violet, several types of herbs, and even a cactus. I’ve even resorted to silk plants and it doesn’t take long for them to look withered, too.
I have no idea what this “Foliage” plant is, or the proper care, so I’ll leave it entirely in my son’s hands. I’ll pray his thumbs are greener than mine.
As I enjoyed the sweetness of Sunday, it struck me that as parents, we are rather optimistic. When we go through rough patches with the kids, we call it a phase. When we see kindness and a gentle nature, we don’t call that a phase – we rejoice in the innocence and goodness that is our child.