Monday, June 15, 2009

Confession of a Demented Mawmaw

Last Friday afternoon, on the way home from an art show that featured my 6yr old grandson's work from a one week art class (that's a mud bug above), he and I decided to stop by Dollar General. The goal was to get some chew toys for Oliver, and some summer yard toys for the kids.

Somehow, apparently during one of my weaker moments, Garrett talked me into getting a battery operated, noise making, plastic gun. At $2.00, it was to be a treat following a good morning. We had been through this before, buying potential "weapons" (guns, golf clubs, etc.), always with bad consequences, but I hoped that he (and I) had learned from our past experiences. I would have preferred to get two guns, so that there'd be one for both grandsons (who fight incessantly over everything), or four so that each of them and two neighbor kids could have one, but there was only the one.

Of course, the rule was that it would not be used in the house to drive Mawmaw crazy, and no fighting over it. And, if Conner, the 3yr old, was here, the gun had to be put away to prevent the sure to follow fight and someone getting hurt. (Ok, don't laugh so loud. It's rude and insensitive. One can always at least try to make rules, no matter how ludicrous.)

We had several slight disagreements over the gun that afternoon and evening (he spends the night here by himself on Friday nights). He wanted to take the gun home with him the next day, even though we have a firm and fast rule that the toys I buy for here stay here. (Again, please keep the laughter under control. If I let him take them all home, I'd have to keep buying toys to entertain them). Also, he and his brother were going to spend Saturday night with their two cousins, so what he really wanted to do was take the gun there and have bragging rights. I asked him if he seriously thought I would let him take a gun, albeit a fake plastic one, into a home with three other boys. Four boys and one gun, seriously?

Saturday morning started out so well. We slept late, had a good breakfast early on so he didn't have a meltdown, etc. I wasn't feeling well (I'm having trouble with my thyroiditis again), so I said I would be glad to go outside with him, but that I just flat out didn't have the energy to run around with him. He wanted to play guns, him with the plastic noise making one and me with a plain old water gun. I said that was fine, but there would be no me running around, and I had to get dressed first.

At which point he started shooting me with the battery operated, noise making, plastic gun. That sounded like a high-pitched jack hammer. A real one. Did I mention that I already also had a headache, and my bad neck was hurting, and I was feeling really really grouchy?

I asked and then warned him to stop. He didn't. I grabbed for the gun and said that I was putting it up until we were outside. He said no I wasn't. I grabbed for the gun again and told him that if he didn't give it to me I was going to put it in the plastic recycleables. He said no I wasn't. He continued to shoot me with the battery operated, noise making, plastic gun that sounded like a jack hammer. (Let me interject here and tell you that this was not just a typical little boy having fun thing going on. This was a little boy purposely defying and being rude to an adult). I grabbed for it again, and he jumped onto and over the bed. I jumped onto and over the bed as well, and grabbed for and reached the gun.

I stomped to the kitchen, Garrett in hot pursuit, thinking that I was going to put the gun in the recyleables and he'd retrieve it, or that I would put it on top of the refrigerator and give it back to him later.

You should have seen his face when I took the hammer out of the drawer, put the gun on the floor, and smashed it.

He knelt on the floor, sobbing and begging me to stop, gathered the pieces and said something like "ha ha, look at this, there are enough pieces to glue back together, and the battery part is still intact!" I mean, really, you've seen that face before, right? At which point I said something like "Really? Let me see?", and took out the hammer and smashed it again.

Ok, no stone throwing, please. I can hear you thinking "so...who's throwing the tantrum here? ", and "you should have tried this or that instead of resorting to violence".

I should have felt ashamed at that moment, but instead I walked to the back of the house (shaking a little bit) and proceded to get dressed, leaving my husband to pick up the pieces of both the gun and the sobbing boy with the demented Mawmaw.

(You may also be asking, and rightly so, where Pawpaw was during this confrontation. The answer would be ... sitting in the living room, reading the paper, listening to it all and calmly saying things like "come on, Garrett, don't make Mawmaw mad, you know how she gets", and "Garrett, give Mawmaw the gun so she'll quit yelling". Call me crazy, but don't you think he could have just reached out and grabbed the gun himself?)

As always happens in the aftermath of these confrontations with this high strung but sharp as a tack and precious boy (aka Drama King), I did eventually begin to feel ashamed of myself for throwing such a tantrum ... what kind of example of self control, or lack of, was that for a child? Is this really that different than the lady who kicked her kids out of the car for fighting and then driving off without them? Would he forever be plagued by nightmares of me standing above him with a hammer in my hand?

Garrett and Pawpaw left shortly after this, but, before leaving, Garrett hugged me and said that he loved me, and I told him the same. Then later that evening I went to his house for a party, and he ran out to greet me with hugs and laughter and a request to play badmitten with him, just as if nothing had ever happened. And hugged me goodbye that night and said he loved me.

Can you say "whew!" The worse case scenerio in my head is always that he'll hate me or never want to willingly hang out with me again. But I think this little boy, who I love so much it hurts, and who is a huge part of my life, may also have been a little ashamed of himself, knew that he had screwed up and had pushed me too far. And perhaps his worse case scenerio in his head is that I'll hate him and never want to be with him again?

Maybe, in the end, it's these little skirmishes that teach us, both child and adult, what our own limits are, and how far we can push our loved ones without doing irreparble damage to the relationship? We're learning this as we go along, Garrett and I. I've never been a grandmother before, and he's never before been a kid. We spend a lot of time together, he and I. More than the usual grandparent who sees their grandkids once a month, so the dynamics are a little different. I'm not what I call a fairy grandparent who sweeps in with the special trips and treats, who doesn't deal with the day to day. Not a parent, but still an important and pivotal relationship that frequently encounters the best and worst in each of us.

The thing is, you can have already raised a child to adulthood, and read all the books along the way, and then go into another person's childhood where all the rules have changed and there's a brand new set of books and experts on the subject of interacting with a child, of how to handle their tantrums and acting out. But until that one particular moment comes where all books and rules go out the window, you just don't know how you will react in that particular situation. And it's not always pretty. So, yes, I've had my share of demented moments, and I'm sure there will be more to come. But they're preceded and followed by love. Hopefully that will soften the impact for both of us.
(Having re-read this post, I'm thinking I need to clarify that no actual physical violence has ever occurred here beyond a butt swat or arm grab. Certainly the hammer was never used on or aimed at this child or any other! If you read my post titled Fate or Destiny, you know that there's a history of domestic violence in my biological mother's life by her father, but I was never a part of that. I have, however, always worried that the gene would be in me, but, beyond a quick but short-lived temper, I have never demonstrated or felt violent urges.)


Ginger said...

Okay, forgive me, I am trying to wipe the smile off my face quickly. I know it's rude to laugh, but darn, I can just picture the scenario. Been there, done that, except I was never smart enough to grab a hammer and break the stupid toy. Kids have a way of pushing every button when you don't feel well.
I love the way you tell the story. Now when are you going back to the dollar store to buy another gun? lol.

Malinda said...

There is no stone throwing from here. I think that was a very reasonble way to deal with such a big personality. I once heard someone say some children need to learn the soft way (I'm assuming that's what all the books are talking about) and others need it hard! He lived and he learned (the hard way) and now he still loves - it's all good!

Wendy said...

I think we've all had our "snapped" moments. Those who haven't are probably on some really, really good medication. :)

Wendy said...

As I was reading the part about his reaction to you asking for the gun back, I was wondering what you'd do. Yes, it set a terrible example about losing your temper, but it also set one about how far you can push Mawmaw. I can't say I would have done anything differently.

And as for the 'new' set of rules for parenting, I totally agree. They've even changed (or at least I'm now aware of them) between Joey and Kam. Jenny's success with Kam has inspired me to start some toddler Love and Logic with Joey (who is 10). And it's actually working. It also works with spouses, but you might not want to mention that to them. ;)

Anonymous said...

Man, that kid sounds like a real brat. Where was his mother when all of this was going on? Surely she would have handled this differently! Or maybe not. LOL Melody

Anonymous said...

God, Linda. I remember when Lindsay would just send me over the edge. She was so bull-headed and stubborn, and so was I. It will be interesting to see what kind of child(ren?) she’ll have. She still has the capability sometimes to make me just want to smack her, but I resist the impulse (mostly).
I don’t know whether it’s any better whether the significant other gets involved or not. Doug would get in the middle of it and just make it worse by trying to fix it. Then we would both turn on him. And it would be one big free-for-all screaming match. Yikes! I kept thinking we were giving her all kinds of material to work out in therapy, and I’ve apologized to her. She says she still loves me.
Bless all their little hearts! And ours!
Love, Alice

Being Lila said...

I took my 10-year-old ADHD grandson to live with me during his last semester of 4th grade, so his mother could finisher her last semester of nursing school without having a nervous breakdown. Our whole dynamic changed when I had to be "Mom" instead of "Nanny" and we were both more than ready for him to return home in May. I feel your pain.

Wander to the Wayside said...

Including the emails I've received in addition to these comments, I guess the view is that I'm not an ogre!

F.Y.I., Anonymous Melody is my daughter!

Wendy, I'm looking forward to seeing how Kam does when he's six. Hopefully the Love and Logic will be ingrained in his psyche, because I can't imagine Jenny taking a hammer to a plastic noise making gun, even if she is taunted with it!

Oz Girl said...

I can't help but admit that I was smiling and even laughing just a bit... I don't think you did anything wrong here. Kids that take things to the extreme, like taunting an adult and generally disrespecting their authority, sometimes need to be taught an extreme lesson. He will most definitely remember from this episode that YOU are in charge, not him. :) And he'll be fine, as evidenced by his later behaviour towards you. I think he will love you even more in the long run for setting the boundaries, as opposed to parents who neglect to set those boundaries.

Maranatha said...

I feel so much better now! I think smashing the toy was brilliant. Really. Go Mawmaw. Of course, this is coming from the stay-at-home-mommy of a 3 yr old. I also have two very involved Granma's in my kids' lives, and I love knowing that they will instill some values in them while the bambinos are away from me. My kids are exactly 3 yrs apart, but one is still a baby. Sounds like fun times ahead in the sharing department! I liked this post so much, I'm gonna follow you! Feel free to check out my blogs. is the one I am devoting to my "stories" (if that's what they're called). LOL--my mom's email address is TheWindy & her nickname is WindyLindy

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"And it's not always pretty. So, yes, I've had my share of demented moments, and I'm sure there will be more to come."

I guess that makes you human, just like the rest of us.