Gloomy Gus

Another morning. I am the first awake. I’ve gotten the coffee made and the woodstove fire going, and I’m settled on the couch with my laptop and a cup of coffee.

Our winter so far hasn’t been much of a winter. The weather is more like early spring, when we get excited about winter losing it’s grip. We even had  muddy ground instead of frozen ground the other day. I think winter ought to be winter. Spring feels so much MORE after a wintry winter–more appreciated, more of a release. I want winter before spring.

We have all been feeling rundown. JJ and I are probably rundown because we are recovering from not feeling well. EJ might also be rundown from being sick, but also partly from his back pain and not sleeping well. He read that an elderberry extract called Sambucol helps build up a person’s immune system or something, so we’ve been taking daily doses. It’s very expensive–more than $13 for a small bottle, although EJ got it on a two for one sale. I asked, “If all this is is elderberries, why don’t we just plant elderberries….?” EJ said, “Exactly.” I think he is going to plant an elderberry bush in our yard soon.

JJ was a Gloomy Gus yesterday….I’ll get back to this in a minute.

When I was a child, I always thought that parents/adults knew what they were doing. Some things that they did seemed unfair or incomprehensible to me, but I thought they did it by design and had the answers. When I was a young adult, I thought that I had the answers. I had babysat for years and spent time with my nieces and nephews, and I could give parents advice about how to deal with behavior problems. But when I had a child of my own, I realized that raising a child is not like spending a few hours at a time with a child. I think parenting is a large part prayer and a large part “What do I do know? I am doing the best I can!”

When I got pregnant with JJ, I told God not to give me a strong-willed child because I am not good with confrontation. He gave me a strong-willed child. In some ways I am very glad because I think God has taught me a lot through him, and because I did not want him to grow up as much of a pleaser and as manipulated  as I was. I wanted him to stand up for who he was and for his beliefs. But, oy vey, sometimes I do not know how to raise him! I think there are some things I have done some things very right with him, and some things I could have done better, and some things I would have done differently if I had a chance. I have told him to forgive me for the mistakes I have made because someday he’ll want his children to forgive him for his mistakes, and try not to make the same mistakes. Make different ones. Ha!

JJ is very intelligent and very funny and has a tender heart. He opens doors for women, lets people with fewer water jugs go ahead of him when he fills ours, and tells cashiers at stores “Have a nice day!” as we walk away. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t take drugs, and isn’t rebellious. We actually have a good relationship. He is kind to kids who are mentally challenged and fatherless children seem to be drawn to him. He’s a good kid, and I think he’ll be a good man.

But, oh, is he stubborn! Even as a young child he was strong-willed, and the more I “disciplined” him, the more he stood firm. I’ve had to try to come up with ways to discipline him. Sometimes it is frustrating. For example, the first time he was to mow the lawn, when he was 8 or 9, and I said, “Let me tell you how I want you to do it,” he responded, “No, let me tell you how I am going to do it!” He still doesn’t mow the lawn exactly as I want him to….Grrrrr. There are times when I try to tell him how I want him to do a task, and he dismisses me with, “I know, I know!” but later says, “You do NOT give good enough instructions.” Grrrr. There are many times when I remind him to do a chore, and he says, “I know, I know. You don’t have to nag me.” Hours later, when I asked him if he did it, he says, “Oops! I forgot. Why didn’t you remind me!” Grrrr.  Or when I tell him in the morning to study his Hebrew vocabulary, and I walk of the room to do something and when I come back, he’s not doing his vocab. So I tell him, “I told you to do vocab.” He says, “I did.” No, if I was gone only a couple of minutes, and I never saw you do the vocab, then you didn’t do it long enough. Two or three minutes is not long enough.” Grrrrr. There are things we have to confront him with and INSIST he do. There are other things I think, “If you won’t learn from us, you will just have to learn this from life.”

Sunday afternoon JJ wanted to take his second shower of the day. EJ said no. “Why can’t I?” You already took a shower today, said EJ, and you haven’t done anything to get dirty. It’s wasteful to take another. “How wasteful can it be?” Water usage costs money and we are trying to be frugal. “How much money can it cost?” It’s about economics, I said. “We aren’t talking about economics,” he said. “We are talking about a shower.” “It IS about economics,” I insisted. “Anything we spend on one thing means we don’t have enough to spend on another. If we spend extra cents on extra showers, on wasting electricity by not turning off lights, etc., and on wasting gas by making unnecessary trips in the car, that all adds up into dollars, and then we don’t have any money for other things….like buying you a laptop. Everything costs money, and if you spend it on one thing, you can’t spend it on other things.” “We aren’t talking about economics or electricity or driving in the car, or laptops…we are talking about a SHOWER. Shhhesh. ” Teen: Rolled eyes. Big sighs. Glaring eyes. Thought bubble above head saying “Stupid parents.” Parents: Big sighs. Thought bubble saying “Stubborn, unteachable child who thinks he has all the answers when he hasn’t experienced life.” “No, you cannot have a second shower today….or any day” And it wasn’t about just a second shower today, in the last week he has taken two showers a day several times. It’s becoming a habit. Teen stomps around and glares.

Ok, this is a somewhat silly conversation, but we have these sorts of conversations about many other things too. Sometimes he feels unteachable. “LISTEN,” we say. I told him once that kids cause gray hair because people never have gray hair until AFTER they have kids. LOL. We’ve always had fun making up stories, and we all know they are just stories. We are storytellers in my family. Years ago, when JJ told me I was mean Mom, I told him that every woman starts out being nice and sweet like Cinderella or Snow White, dancing through the forest singing, with small animals scampering around them. Then they have kids, and they turn into mean old witches. That’s where witches come from. He said, “But Grandma J. isn’t a mean ol’ witch.” “That’s because her kids all moved away, and she gets to be a nice Grandma. She is reverting back to being a princess.”  Then my sister called and JJ answered and told her, “My Mom is a witch.” “WHAT did you call your Mom?????” my sister gasped. Oops. I had to explain. LOL.

JJ also tends to be a Gloomy Gus, looking at the negative more than the positive. Sometimes he thinks his life stinks, but I try to remind him that he still has his original parents, and we love each other, and he’s never been hungry, homeless, or abused. He has no idea what some people have suffered. “You just don’t understand,” he sighs. Yesterday JJ was being such a Gloomy Gus, dripping sighs all over everything. My plants all withered when he walked by. The cats yowled and the dog whimpered. When I told him to start counting his blessings, he growled that I have no idea how much his life stinks, and he has a right to be sad, and he just needs someone to hear him. I finally commanded him to go visit his friend. I gave him the car keys and shoved him out the door, and told him to return home by 9 p.m. He returned well before that, with smiles and cheerfulness. Thank goodness. I was about ready to start sobbing myself with the tragedy of his life.

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