In Her Words
Holiday Kids’ Party
My son and the Mean boys
-Melina Gerosa Bellows
The holiday cookie party is in full swing when we arrive. There must be a hundred perfect people. Skinny blond moms in blue jeans, Ivy League educated dads in cashmere sweaters.
My 3-year-old Mackenzie makes a b-line to the triple story dollhouse in the family room. With the smocking on her dress and the big navy bow in her blond bob, she fits right into this Norman Rockwell scene. My 4-year-old Chase is not doing badly either, gamely accepting the Santa hat applied by our 6-year-old hostess. My husband swills Perrier water and chats with a colleague’s wife.
We’re doing OK, I think, breathing a momentary sigh of relief. Despite the fact that my husband moved out on Halloween, and each member of our family has had his or her share of issues and challenges, right now, right here, all is well.
I’m pouring myself a glass of wine when I’m nearly knocked over by a weapon-wielding gang. Light sabers, swords and air guns that shoot ping-pong balls, these 8-year-olds are fully loaded. I feel nervous, but tell myself to relax; this is a party, the kids are playing.
Not five minutes later, I hear Chase’s name being bellowed from the basement playroom. My husband is oblivious, but the hostess and I make a mad dash down the stairs to the marauding clutch of boys. We glean the uproar had something to do with an ensuing scuffle over Chase not relinquishing a coloring book. Chase looks upset, I think, despite the fact that he has a smile plastered on his face.
I pull my husband into the loop, and ask him to shadow Chase for a bit, while I check on Mackenzie. Chase looks much older than his four years, yet he barely has the maturity, coordination or street smarts to hold his own with his peers, let alone older kids. He’s been seen by specialists galore, and we currently switched from a weekly shrink appointment to twice weekly occupational therapy sessions. His teachers have noticed a big improvement with his impulse control and body relegation. Even better, he’s been invited for play dates with his fellow students. I thought that we were finally climbing out of the hole.
I’m decorating cookies with Mackenzie when my husband reports that the ruckus has blown over. “They even said, ‘Chase, you can come play with us outside, we won’t be mean to you, anymore,” he says, with a boys-will-be-boys tone.
I look out the window and spot my son cheerfully running behind the pack. Maybe I’m overreacting I tell myself, pop a cookie in my mouth, and go to fill my wine glass.
Mid-pour, the cabal bursts into the house shouting.
“Chase turned on the hose!” one yells. Sure enough, there’s my sheepish son, soaking wet, straggling in.
I crouch down and get in his face. “Now we are going to have to go home,” I say sternly. “It is not OK to turn on the water at other people’s houses.”
Chase starts to have a fit, so I pull him along to go find Mackenzie. Too late, I realize my son is not the only one who is wet. Potty training simply cannot compete with the mesmeric effect of a doll McMansion. My black cashmere sweater is now soaked through to my skin, where Mackenzie is straddling my hip. I drag them both to thank the hosts and snag my husband, whom I instruct to fetch the coats.
“I can’t find Chase’s coat,” says my husband, sorting through the coat pile in the hall. I just want to kill him at this point. I snatch up Chase’s coat (it was right there!!!!) and we head out the door.
Chase is ahead of us, walking down the driveway with his container of carefully decorated cookies when he’s spotted.
“It’s Chase, let’s get him!” screams one of the little boys. They come running and surround him with their weapons.
My son tries to make a run for it, but immediately falls flat on the pavement, his cookie container spewing his handiwork all over the dirty road. This is when I realize it was a big mistake to have had two glasses of wine.
I should have had six.
Because what I feel inside is so painful I realize that I’m not fit to be a mother. That quote, “Being a mother is like having your heart walk around outside of your body?” That doesn’t even begin to cover it. Try open-heart surgery without anesthetic.
I break into a trot.
“STOP!!!!!!!” I yell as loud as I possibly can.
“STOP!!!!!!!” I yell again, running as fast as I can with a wet 3-year-old strapped to my hip.
The instigating 8-year-old and I face off. If my eyes were machine guns the kid would be dead. I’m so furious that I’m at a complete loss for words. We stay like that for a long few seconds.
Then I stoop to scrape up the cookies and my little boy from the pavement.
“I guess we’re in trouble,” says one of the kids, and they head inside.
Silently, my little family heads to the car and goes home. We act like everything is normal, and go about the usual routine of baths, books and bedtime, which now requires their father to leave the house. No one has spoken of what’s happened, but my insides are screaming.
Once I settle Mackenzie into her bed, I lie with Chase as I usually do. Only then does he say, “Mom, why were those boys so mean to me?”
How can I explain Lord of the Flies to a 4-year-old?
“Honey, sometimes older kids don’t want to play with younger kids,” I say. “But when you’re older, you’ll get the chance to make the choice and you can choose to be nice.”
I wish I have something better to say, something to take the pain away, his and my own, and to make the world right. But I don’t, so I put my head close to my son’s. I try to send him love telepathically, like I am on Star Trek or something.
Then I start laughing. So does he.
“Why are you laughing, Mom?” he asks.
“Did you really get those kids with the hose?” I ask.
He doesn’t really answer, and I’m glad.
Good for you, I think, smiling in the dark.
Melina Gerosa Bellows is a best-selling author and a leading magazine editor. She is a new columnist-blogger for BettyConfidential.com.
Read Melina’s past post The Christmas Zit here.