Love is the thread that tethers me to my children. And husband. Like is just not strong enough. Not tonight. Not on rushed, late-for-school mornings or at doctor’s appointments where needles are needed. Love is the thread that pulls me to make the appointments, to hustle us out the door, to set limits. Love loves ferociously.
“You have 10 minutes left to play Fortnite.”
A child’s love is intoxicating. Adoration beams up at you from orbs that are more perfect than perfection. A love as soft as velvet, as smooth as a Raj’s finest silk. A drug that must be surrendered more often than anyone would care to. Like tonight.
“I hate you,” responds my younger son.
Indifference is the opposite of love. Hatred is its engaged, frustrated, limit-testing cousin who tantrums at boundaries and howls at the timer’s end.
“You ruin everything!”
I’m the Ruiner. Tonight I’m about to ruin his game of Fortnite. I grab the PlayStation remote control.
He wrestles it back. “I don’t care what you want. I’m going to do what I want to do. I finished my homework, took out your garbage. It’s me time now.”
10 is strong. Warring over a remote control is not how I imagined parenthood. 10 is fierce – especially when electronics are at stake. 10 is a tween – the double digit that ends the Mommy-little boy romance.
At 10, testicles descend. They propel my sweet little guy toward manhood’s starting gate. Adolescence is cruel to boys, they grow tall and their feet extend before their frame catches up. Empty refrigerators, monosyllabic grunts that will be proffered as answers — and will have to suffice. This what is what those cerulean blues stare back at me. That and you-are-no-fun-at-all rage.
“Actions have consequences, you know.”
I am on the Love Wagon tonight. This is the grinding part of parental love that never comes to mind as you stare in awe at the ultrasound pulsating the promise of perfect love inside you. This is the B side – the love that tests your mettle. That helps you grow – hopefully up.
“I don’t care.”
I care deeply. Which is why I am stuck enforcing this arbitrary limit. My cocktail party begins in 15 minutes. Love is inconvenient.
“Mom just 10 more minutes!”
“I gave you five more already.”
“I hate you.”
We sit. 10 grunts. Rages. Tantrums. 10 punches a pillow.
“Not even grandma loves you.”
I dig deep.
My mother loves me the best she can. Just like I love my children. And how I hope they will love their kids – my grandchildren. Love connects us to our highest self.
I smile, “I think you’re wrong on that.”
“I am fucking right.”
“Please don’t curse.”
Love connects us to our lowest self too.
It is the intricately braided twine that loosens and tightens a we navigate this mountainous life.
“I’m not cursing any more than you fucking do when we’re fucking late.”
Love is the force that propels me to find the PlayStation circuit – and disconnect it. 10 is too strong and savvy for me to play keep-away with both PlayStation controllers.
“You’re tired. Go to bed.”
“I am not fucking tired.”
“You’re right. You’re overtired.”
“I am not fucking tired.”
Love walks away. Love needs a drink. Maybe two.
In the midst of the soiree – part business, mostly pleasure – Love slips away, goes upstairs to kiss the sleeping 10 – a nightly ritual no matter what has transpired that day. 10 sleeps the sweet, sweet slumber of nine.
At evening’s end, I stop by my office on the way to bed. There’s a note on my desk: “I don’t plan on saying I’m sorry ‘til you give me my stuff and you tell me you are sorry.”
In the morning, 10’s rage burns as bright as the sun that rises to usher in a new day. Nine would have sobbed an apology hours ago. 10 rides to school in silence, leaving the passenger door open as a final act of defiance.
That afternoon I return home to find 10 playing Fortnite: “I’m setting the timer for 30 minutes,” Apparently, we own a third PlayStation controller. Who knew?
“Can I have five more minutes to finish my round?”
“I’ll give you six but that’s it.”
10 hears Love even when he pretends not to listen. In a decade or two maybe 10 will even understand that it was Love that started this kerfuffle.
“I finished my round.”
“You still had 15 seconds.”
“I finished like 2 minutes ago.”
“Now go do something else, please.”
Love grows. In fits and starts; shouts and whispers.
Love wraps families in the Raj’s silk; it bloodies our hands with its fierce, coarse twine.
“… I get to play for 30 minutes on weekdays….”
“Only after you finish everything that you have to do; homework, reading…”
“Okay, okay…. But I get an hour and a half on each weekend day,” right?
“Only after you do something physical. Get out of the house…. And read for 45 minutes.”
“30.” 10 gives me a peck on the cheek, “I can live with that.”