Acting Like George


I have a child with the wiggles.  His body feels better when in motion.  He sits at the dinner table and rhythmically taps his utensils together while his leg uncontrollably flicks the floor.  His mind is as active as his body.  His brain constantly buzzes.  He whistles (badly).  He hums (badly).  He repeats parts of conversations over and over.  He tells a joke.  He tells it again.  If you make the mistake of laughing, he will tell it a thousand times.  He hops.  He jumps.  He skips, leaps, bounces.  Riley is six.  But this is a particularly bad case of six.  In addition to the constant movement, the child has selective hearing.  He does not focus.  He does not listen.  He has the manners of a-of a-of a six year old boy.  And on top of all this, he doesn’t comply – as in mind.

 He is such a difficult child to parent.  Lately it seems I enjoy him most when he’s asleep. I have taken to watching him sleep at night. He’s so peaceful.  He’s still – except for the occasional thrash or snore or roll.  For the most part he’s motionless.  He’s beautiful and he reminds me how much I love him.  He reminds me how much I look like him.  He reminds me how much I AM like him.  Lately, I’ve needed these reminders.  See, I’m not the best mom.  Hell, I’m not even HIS best mom. Tonight, while watching him sleep, I realized that I had become a yeller.  One of those moms who repeats herself increasing auditory intensity until yes, it becomes unflattering.  “Leave your brother alone.  I said stop it.  Don’t touch your brother.  GET ON YOUR OWN SIDE!  STOP IT!”  I can holler all that and not even take a breath.  But today, I became conscious of the fact that because I yell, I give my son permission to ignore me.  He must think to himself, “If it’s that important, she’ll say it again, and again, and again, and louder, and YELL it at me. Since she’s quietly requesting right now, I can certainly ignore her for at least five more minutes.”

            Tonight while he slept, I was flooded with memories of things he has said and done.  Like, the first night we brought his baby brother home from the hospital, we were tucking the boys into bed when Riley informed me and his Mommy Kim that we were clearly tired so we should go right to bed and Riley would take care of the baby all night 

            “What if the baby wakes up?” Kim asked.

            “Don’t worry.  I’ll feed him.” Riley responded.

            “What will you feed him?” I asked.

            He pulled a Ziploc baggie out from under his pillow.  “Cereal for the baby.”

And how, just a few months later, I overheard him talking to his baby brother about Dora the Explorer and how he couldn’t wait until Casey was old enough to watch it with him.  And then, he told his brother that we don’t do racism in this family.  And he went on saying that girls are as good as boys and boys are as good as girls.  Thinking nobody was eavesdropping, Riley continued, “And when you’re really naughty, Mommy might call you George.  That means George Bush and it means you’re being really selfish.  You don’t want to act like George.” 

I remembered how just a few weeks ago, I banned him from asking “why” questions.  He was using these questions to challenge my authority (the semblance of authority I still pretend to have) and asking questions he actually knew the answer to.  But answering his own why question is not nearly as fun as asking it, waiting for me to answer, correcting me if I get any part of the answer wrong, and then – when I ask why he asked if he knew the answer, he smart-aleckly replies something to the effect of, “because I wanted to see if you knew.”

            “That’s it. I’m done.  For the rest of the day there will be no more ‘why’ questions.”

            “But you said there are no stupid questions,” he challenged.

            “Well there certainly won’t be any today” I replied.

“You’re acting like George” he threw my own line back at me.

“This has nothing to do with George” I countered.  “No more ‘whys’ for the rest of the day.”

            “But Wh.”  He couldn’t finish.  He started again, “But…”  And this brilliant free-thinking wiggle worm child figured out how to get around my rule.  “But… how come?”

            I know the yelling thing has got to go.  It’s something I get to work on.  I also get to continue to help Riley focus and most certainly continue to assist him in learning to listen.  But I also realize that I helped shape him into the free-thinker that he is.  His calling me ‘George’ really hit home.  I wanted both the 6 year old sweet compliant boy along with the challenging, self-aware, independent boy too.  I wanted to determine when he could challenge and when he had to comply. 

I don’t get to pick and choose when he thinks critically and when he just does what he’s told.  How can I expect him to challenge his teachers, call out social injustice and confront elected officials if he cannot practice these skills now with me? I can’t.  He’s right.  I’ve been acting like George. 



6 Responses to “Acting Like George”

  1. ohchicken Says:

    taking notes. i’m sure that THIS is my daughter…

  2. Chicory Says:

    I don’t know, I’m still hoping for some middle ground… something like “think critically of everyone ELSE but me. Why? Because I said so!”

    think it’ll work?

  3. Carrie Says:

    If it wasn’t for yelling, I’d have no parenting skills at all.

  4. Uncle Doug Says:



  5. qweirdutah Says:

    Uncle Doug –
    I know, I WANT to teach him to be a rebel. BUT I don’t want him to rebel against me. Just everyone else. A little like having my cake and eating it too.

  6. Kelly B Says:

    at first i thought you were talking about malachi…


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