I love my son to distraction. I really do. But sometimes, he can act like an utter brat.
I had that thought this morning as I listened to the sound of a door being slammed, repeatedly, as I sat cross-legged on the bathroom floor, holding a bottle of blue nail polish. A negotiation over breakfast – that I could wield the dreaded nail clippers, as long as I painted his toenails afterwards – had gone horribly wrong. To be fair, I’d had the feeling that it would. He had rolled out of the wrong side of bed this morning and been spoiling for a fight ever since.
It was going ok until I got to toenail eight. At that point, he decided that blue didn’t suit his skin tone or something. An order was issued to start the job again, this time in red. Right now. Straight away, lady. Let’s get cracking.
Two issues with this. The first is that I don’t even own red nail polish, not being a 1950’s starlet and all. And the other is I don’t react well to bossy instructions from bad tempered five year olds.
When I failed to change the blue to red using solely the power of my mind, he lost it completely. And that’s how I ended up on the bathroom floor, listening to the door and wondering what the hell to do now.
By the time I got to the bedroom he was a small blue lump under his duvet. I clambered up to the top bunk, uncovered his face, and lay down beside him. Silently we contemplated the ugly stucco ceiling together.
I glanced across at the little angry figure beside me.
“I guess it’s hard, sometimes, being five. Is it?”
And that was all it took. His face crumpled and the tears started. And for the next few minutes, I just held him and rocked him and tried not to cry myself. Because I understand. It’s hard to be five. It’s hard to have your world turned upside down, to have to move from your big house to an apartment, to shuttle back and forth between the two people you love most in the world, who now appear to hate each other. It’s hard to not get to make the decisions, to have these changes thrust upon you for what seem like the most stupid reasons in the world. It’s hard when you don’t even get to dictate your own damn nail colour.
So I stroked him and I shushed him and my heart burned and raged about all the things I wanted to give him and I couldn’t.
When the storm had passed we lay there, exhausted. Then we climbed down and quietly cleaned off all the blue nail polish.
After I’d dropped him off at preschool, I went to the chemist and bought a new bottle in fire engine red. Because it’s hard to be five. And it’s hard to be thirty eight. We’ll have to find our way through this frightening, complex, hopeful journey together. At the very least, we can do it with stylish feet.