Last month I wrote about the mutual crush my 9-year-old son and I have shared since sometime around Christmas (see My Son's New Crush on this blog site). Sadly, the honeymoon is over. I know this because I endured a shameful public break-up yesterday afternoon. Stephen and I were perusing the aisles at our local Walgreen's in search of tennis balls before he went to a friend's house. I detoured past the toilet paper aisle (we were dangerously down to two rolls, not a good plan at our house) and then over to the wall of refrigerated drinks to grab the 3/$5 bottles of Gatorade. It's travel baseball season and we go through Gatorade like most kids go through frozen popsicles during 'adult swim' at the pool.
Stephen and I reunited at the front of the store and headed for the cash register. The man behind the register is the same familiar smiling face who usually rings up my purchases and is always quick to look through the flyer to see if I've missed a sale or a coupon. He heard me call Stephen by name as we were standing there and after I ran my debit card through the machine, he looked at Stephen and asked, "Are you going to help Mom out today, Stephen?"
In a moment of in-your-face-alien-abduction my son shrugged his shoulders and answered, "Probably not." And then, to add utter humiliation to my shock and awe, he turned and walked toward the door with his tennis balls. "Stephen Clay Hood! Turn around and get back over here [pause for effect and lower voice before continuing]. Right. Now." There was no mistaking the steely tone of my voice or the fiery darts shooting from my blue eyes. It is unfortunate for me that so many people were in the check-out line to witness my son's Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde moment. It is indeed very fortunate for my son that there were so many witnesses to what could have been a horrific crime of parenting rage right there in front of the bubble gum and breath mints.
The only words I could muster after he lazily sauntered back over to the counter were, "We are still in the store young man, and I can easily return those tennis balls I just bought. Now pick up the Gatorade and go to the car."
Ruth Bell Graham was once asked during an interview if she had ever been tempted to divorce her world-famous evangelist husband, Billy. She wittily replied, "Divorce? Never. Murder? Yes." I know exactly how she felt. Honestly, in that nano-second of anger and embarrassment I visualized several ways I could rid the free world of my son's belligerent and disrespectful attitude. There's not a parent on Planet Earth who would convict me: we've all been there, done that, and hidden the t-shirt.
The ensuing car ride was stifling in its quiet. Stephen dared not say a word and I was biting my lip afraid of what I might say if I opened my mouth. By the time we turned back into our neighborhood I was able to calmly but firmly express that his behavior was inappropriate and unacceptable. I'm fairly certain he got the message and is afraid to find out what the woods behind Walgreen's look like after dark.
It will probably be a while before I summon the courage to shop again at my neighborhood Walgreen's. I can guarantee you it will be a long time before I walk through those doors with Stephen at my side. I still love him and I know he still loves me. But in a moment of stretching his proverbial wings, he knocked me off my pillar of sweetness and light.
And the crush was crushed.