Several months ago Mitchel would not let me kiss him goodbye when I dropped him off at school. He was super mad because he was wearing “bad” uniform pants and apparently it was my fault. Never in the history of time has one of my boys denied me a goodbye kiss. Ever.
There is this thing that all five of my boys do when we say goodnight or goodbye or I love you: they bow their heads down and I kiss the tops of their heads. Trying to remember when this started, I asked my husband and he said he started it. Apparently I used to kiss the boys all over their faces with messy mommy love and he would kiss the top of their heads, to balance things out with cool dad love. Manly, easy to display in public, love. The realization that this ritual was not born of me threw me a little off kilter. I thought I was the boss of our family rituals. But I’m glad that I intuitively evolved (without realizing it until now) to an acceptable form of showing affection for my now giant man boys because I still get to put my face up close and inhale the essence of them. Their smells of sticky softness and dirt and squirming adventure have changed to Irish spring soap and hair product and occasional sweat along with courage, optimism and sometimes fearful anxiety that makes me want to pull them tight and once again place wet smooches all over them to create a mother shield that fends off all that is harmful. But I don’t. Because it would be weird. Plus I want them receive my love openly, without embarrassment or reservation. On their terms. These terms have been steady and consistent for a long enough time to feel like a code. An unwavering mother son code that has withstood the test of time and height and age.
Until twelve year old Mitchel changed the terms, boldly declaring that there would be no love accepted from a mother who made him go to school wearing wide legged uniform pants that bagged weird in the butt
I suppose it was inevitable that he would be the one to mess up my universe. Being the sixth born and youngest of five sons, he continues to push every boundary as he tries to figure out how to stand out and blend in at the same time. His life is complicated enough without having to worry about what the kids at school are going to say about pants pulled from the “uniform bingy” that his oldest brother probably wore to the same private school nine plus years ago.
But for the record, the pants situation was not my fault. Nor was it his dad’s fault. It was 100% Mitchel’s fault. And some decent parenting went on the night prior to the bad pants day that would NOT have happened with the first born, though he turned about pretty good despite the lack of tough love that we should have thrown on him at a much younger age.
Let’s rewind two weeks prior to the day Mitchel shunned my love:
Mitchel: Mom, when do we have to wear pants instead of shorts for uniform?
Me: I’m pretty sure it’s the day after Halloween. Which is coming up so you should see if there are any pants in the uniform bingy that fit you.
Mitchel: I really think we should be able to wear shorts in the winter if we want.
Me: Well you can. But there are of course consequences. Which will affect your dad or me, since one of us will have to come pick you up from school for breaking the uniform code. Which means there will be more consequences. For you.
Mitchel: Hmmm. Okay.
One week later according to his dad, pretty much the same conversation took place.
Enter 7:30 pm on the night before he is supposed to go to school wearing PANTS instead of shorts.
Mitchel: Mom! I don’t have any uniform pants.
Me: Did you look in the uniform bingy?
Mitchel: I don’t know which one that is.
Me: It’s the one that is marked “UNIFORM CLOTHES” in big black letters.
Mitchel (10 minutes later): There aren’t any pants that fit me. David says he threw his away because the knees were ripped out. Except for the pair he burned in celebration of never having to wear a uniform to school again. There is only one pair in the bingy and they don’t fit me.
I put the pants burning vision on hold for another day, immediately recognizing the rookie move to try and put the blame for no pants on David and force me to the mall at zero hour. David and I will have a discussion later about pyromania and its long term effects on a solid future.
Me: Bring them here.
Mitchel brings the pants to me and I look at the tag. They are exactly his size.
Me: Try them on.
Mitchel groans and goes to his room to put them on. He comes back visibly upset and hunched over, dragging one leg, clearly in terrible pain, wearing a pair of pants that fit him perfectly. They are not too short or too tight or too loose but he says they look weird.
Me: Well it’s SEVEN THIRTY. I’m NOT going to take you to the store tonight. You will have to wear these for ONE day. The day after that is Friday and free dress. We will get you some pants this weekend.
Mitchel: Groans and stomps off to his room, slamming the door behind him. His limp is gone. Weird.
The next day, in front of the school, I sit in shock when Mr. Bad Pants does not bow his head for his goodbye kiss. He smiles uncomfortably at me as he gathers his things.
Mitchel: I’m going to have a terrible day because of you. I do not want your love right now.
Me: Well. That’s a sure fire way to guarantee yourself a bad day. But whatever. I bet not one single person will notice your pants. They’re blue like everyone else’s pants and you’re a cool enough kid to pull it off and be a trendsetter if they DO notice. By the end of November everyone will be wearing wide legged pants. Then you’ll call these pants your lucky, life changing pants and probably be able to sell them for millions of dollars when you’re world famous. Who’s gonna be the best mom THEN? Huh? You’ll be begging for my kisses. And I may or may NOT be available to give them to you. I’m completely on the fence there. So. Take THAT.
Mitchel: You clearly do not understand me or the people I have to deal with at this school. It’s a cruel world mom.
And he leaves me, his back stoic and straight, backpack draped casually over his shoulder, walking with exaggerated confidence. And my heart falls in to my stomach as I think “My God what have I done, letting the boy go to school with bad uniform pants? His life may indeed be ruined by this one key moment that could have been avoided by a 7:30 pm trip to the mall last night. You read about these moments in the NEWS. I am the worst mother in the universe.”
But this thinking passes quickly. I’m a mother of six. I know shit. What has happened here is very simple. The student momentarily scooped the master of guilt tripping. I laugh and whisper “Well played and bravo to you Mitchel Siwinski. You are soooo getting some new pants this weekend.”
And he did. Two pair. With hidden security pockets “to keep your stuff safe“ and “4-way stretch for game changing comfort”. But funny thing: he’s keeping the bad pants. He told me they may indeed be lucky because he had a really great day.
But I feel the need to make it known that since that day, I have not been denied a kiss by the man boy. So he could have been bluffing about the great day. It’s hard to say.
Ramona is right. You are a great writer and so engaging. Yes, it helps that I know all of you but I think I’d be inclined to read this even if you were a stranger. Keep it up. Oh, and well done on the pants.
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So good–I love this. It would have secretly broken my heart, but we have to stay strong. I’ve never been denied a kiss from my son, but now that he’s in uni, I don’t get to see him very often, and that has been the worst.
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Oh thank you! ❤️ It’s such a sad happy thing when they grow up. ❤️ My heart can barely contain it.
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Heather, You are an amazing writer!! You should write a book!
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Awwww. Thank you Ramona!! You made my day❤️