Being Finn's Mom is challenging for me. I spend a lot of time thinking about it, trying to piece together why.
He's very attached to me, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Finn is a snuggler - some part of him always needs to be touching me. If we're in a store, he's hugging my leg, or slipping a sticky hand into mine. He's always climbing into my lap, nuzzling my chest, or planting a spontaneous kiss on my cheek. If I'm on the couch reading or watching TV, he'll climb up next to me and lean heavily against my side, sighing contentedly.
No less than four or five times a day he'll spontaneously run up to me, fling his arms around my legs and say, "I love you, Momma."
He's a mad scientist - always mixing things together to see what will happen. It's a common occurrence to find a water cup full of ground pepper, or a little dish filled with soap, shampoo and toothpaste. He plays with his toys, but he wants to see what would happen if he floats them in water, draws on them, wraps them in tape or bangs them with a block. Very few of his toys remain in the condition in which he got them for very long.
He doesn't want to play, he wants to alter. Everything.
He leaves messes in his wake that boggle the mind. I've tried everything I can think of to discipline him - time-outs, making him clean up the mess, prohibiting the use of the television or computer. His response is, invariably, "I don't care". I always follow through on the punishment, and he always abides by it.
But the altering, the experimenting and the messes don't stop.
Yesterday I walked into the bathroom and lost my footing, nearly cracking my head on the bathroom door. Finn had been playing with the handsoap, squirting it in what must have seemed like interesting patterns on the floor.
I was furious. I marched him into the bathroom and pointed at the mess.
"What is this, Finn?"
"Dat? Dat is a pitchah of a storm. I made it for you. Out of soap." He's grinning up at me, eyes bright.
A tidal wave of fury and desperation rises up, and I'm at a loss. I've tried everything, and still - STILL - this kid has my number. What he wants most is me. Even when he's in trouble. Even when I'm scolding him. I should have made him clean up the mess on his own, I know that, but that ends up creating a double mess. After the mess is cleaned up, I tell him I don't want to be around him for a while, and put him in time-out.
As he sits in time-out, I think. I search for something that will get to him, something that will make a lasting impression. He doesn't have a favorite toy, he doesn't care about TV or computer that much. What he cares about is control. How do you take a four (and three-quarters) year old's control away?
"Yes," I respond. "I'm going upstairs now to find a toy, and I'm giving it to charity this afternoon. Because of the mess you made today."
Finn is inconsolable. Score two for Momma, I think.
He sobs and sobs, pulling out every stop:
"I going to tell everyone how howible you are!"
"I miss Catahpillah so much I think I'm going to DIE."
"Momma? I think I'm sick. You know what would make me bettah? Catahpillah."
"I hope dat boy who plays wif my Catahpillah loves him like I do."
I sit on the couch, read my book and pretend to ignore him, but inside I'm smiling away. I'm hoping that maybe, finally, I have found something that matters to him. He's not upset about the toy he barely played with, but rather his loss of control over the situation. Something new and different for both of us.
I worry, though, there won't be a lasting effect, that he will forget about it quickly.
That night, as I'm tucking him into bed, he looks at me sorrowfully and says, "Momma? Will I evah stop thinking about Catahpillah? I just miss him so much. I pwomise I won't make messes."
Score three for Momma.