And the truth will….

…completely shock you,

…elude you for days,

…eventually set you free?

“At some point in your life, Little Guy, you’re going to have to learn not to listen to your brother, Mr. Ornery!!”

The two mothers of boys on The Little Guy’s gymnastics team just cackled in laughter. “You mean, you didn’t know?” they guffawed. “But he told all the boys on the team that it was an apple on a knife!” one exclaimed.  “I just literally found out this morning!” I sighed, shaking my head.

For five whole days I was under the impression that my “poor” eight-year-old had tripped over his own two feet while spinning around our kitchen floor and hit his chin off the countertop. Because that’s what he told me. And that’s what he told the babysitter when he came downstairs with paper towels pressed to his face and soaked in blood. And that’s what he told the doctor at the emergency department when we got there for SEVEN stitches on the night I turned around just as I was parking to hear Ibram X. Kendi speak (you know, after purchasing the tickets months ago!). And that’s what he told his aunt and grandmother and all his friends and teachers at school.

Five days! Five days until Mr. Ornery blurted it out on a Saturday morning. Five days before The Little Guy finally confessed when I told him I wouldn’t talk to him the rest of the day until I heard the truth. Little man, if you had told me the truth from the beginning, I would have said, “Well, that wasn’t very smart, was it? Do you see now why Mommy says, ‘Don’t ever touch my knife set’?”  Behavior. Consequence. Done.

And here, I almost let you have Halloween back. I was feeling compassionate about you getting injured and being so brave and stoic despite the discomfort of the stitches. I was being kind in letting you have an early dismissal from school the next day to rest. I was actually feeling sorry for you. Imagine tripping and busting your lip open. Maybe you should go Trick-or-Treating. But no, now I’m planning to wrap up empty boxes for you for Christmas!!

The reason I’m over the top with rage is that less than three weeks ago, The Little Guy sat in the car on his way to gymnastics practice and told me that a boy was mean to him on the bus and put him in a choke-hold. Knowing this little boy, I doubted the story and said, “Hmmm, that doesn’t sound right, my dear.” “Don’t you care about choking?” he asked in disbelief. “Oh, I care very much. It’s just that I haven’t heard the whole story yet.”  And the next morning, a mom at the bus stop revealed that the real story involved MY boy reaching across the aisle and grabbing his friend around the head. The real story is that my son had been bouncing around the bus and eventually got into an argument with another kid. The real story is that my son then lied to me about who was at fault. And that’s when he became grounded for the month, including all Halloween activities! I don’t take bullying or lying lightly!

And now this? He already wrote “I will only speak the truth” one hundred times, but since that didn’t help, he’s working on his second set of 200 lines. Other than church, school, gymnastics and meals (can’t break the no-food-upstairs rule!), he’s now isolated to his bedroom one day for each person he lied to….and Mommy counts for two days at least.  This evening he mumbled, “Well, I’ve finished the two days for Mommy, so today is for Mrs. S.” (his third grade teacher). Yes, we will just name the days now of which victim is sponsoring his quarantine.

The rational side of my brain knows that this is normal developmental behavior for a young kid. My rational side knows he just doesn’t want to be in trouble. My rational side knows the 10-year-old set him up (he also has consequences). But to have this follow his most recent episode of lying just put me over the edge. And one of the biggest reasons I tell my boys not to lie to me is that my job is to protect them as a mom. I need to know the truth to keep them safe and I need to be able to trust them. You know, a fact I’ve explained a million times now.

And will….a million times more!

Yes, these are the stories from childhood that will last forever.

“How did you get that scar?”

“Well, you see, there was an apple and a knife….but I told my mom it was the kitchen counter or was it the bathroom counter?!”

When the pain cry doesn’t stop right away….Ahhhh!!

You know the cry of pain. It’s different than the “I’m irritated,” “He just took my toy,” or “I need a nap” type of cry. It is unmistakable and it doesn’t happen all that often. When it does, though, I go running down the stairs, scoop up the two-year-old and give him a hug. It’s never fun, though, to look into the face and see his hand full of blood. So I rush him to the bathroom, wondering how much of it is on my shirt (yes, in the midst of blood I do wonder where it’s all going…), and put the first thing I can find on it – some tissues. When I pull them away, I quickly put them back in place and yell, “Kathy, come here.” “What?” she asks when she enters. “Hold pressure. I’ll get dressed and take him in.”

From that point on….it’s just completely automatic. I get dressed. The Little Guy needs a diaper change. I cut off his inner layer of pajamas and throw them away instead of having to pull the shirt over his head and re-open the split lip which has a fragile clot on it and is for the moment not bleeding. Smooth over the 7-year-old who is begging for attention because he has his first field-trip for school and first playdate at a friend’s and is getting a little off-center by the attention given to the annoying little brother…. Pat the 4-year-old on the head and give him a quick hug. Shove a diaper and some wipes into my purse and off we go.

It’s four hours and four stitches later through the emergency room and Sam at ERwe’re back to the car again. It’s about then that I process the morning and realize that (a) I really need to go to the bathroom (problem with being a single mom in the ER) and (b) I’m pretty tired from the nonstop morning.

The suddenness of a kid’s illness really throws off my day – anyone’s day. And it’s not just the schedule, but the whole emotional tone of it. I’ve thought this weekend what it would be like to have been alone with the boys Thursday morning. I would have had to find someone to quickly watch the older boys or take them along with me (and that would have been just a nightmare in the bustle of an emergency room and an exam room full of fun bits of medical equipment and devices…as well as the ubiquitous and life-threatening wheeled three-legged stool!).

Fortunately, I am an extremely well-supported single mom. My sister was there to hold pressure on The Little Guy’s face. My mother arrived a few minutes later and quickly took over my “morning duties” as I looked for a matching set of little shoes. There were no questions about what needed to be done. No grumpy sighs about how their morning was just altered by the need to run boys into day care or drop off at school. No guilt. Total and complete support as we worked together as a unit – a micro-family immediately morphing into a macro-family to meet the needs of the moment.

I know I don’t tell them often enough – but I am so grateful to these two other women who make it possible for me to parent three boys.

Thank you. And I love you.

Oh…and…um….about the fact that Mr. Ornery just spiked a fever before going to bed tonight….and likely won’t be going to daycare tomorrow….. Anyone? Anyone?