Billy Bad Ass

*Deeeeeep Sigh*

I am having serious issues. My precious, darling, cutest baby boy in the world has morphed into a Creature of Badness. No, we’re not supposed to talk about our kids like that, but hey, I’m amongst family, right?

Right. So let the venting begin.

Maybe I need to back up a minute and state, for the record, that I truly believe behavior is learned, either by mimicking the behavior of those in one’s immediate society, by direct behavior modifcation efforts from authority figures, or by indirectly picking up things along the way from more external sources, like media, for example. I believe that children absorb everything around them and it influences how they think, the choices the make, and, consequently, their behavior.

With that said, there are certain ages where children just begin to lose their ever-loving minds!!! This is one of those times I’m guessing.  My son went from being sweet-faced, obedient, always wanting to please to being angry, rude, disrespectful, disobedient, and just all around bad.

And it is driving me up the wall!

I spend weekends with him and he is with his father during the week. Its only about 3 days (from Friday evening to Monday morning) but it comes out to being more hours than his father spends with him during the week. It’s usually just he and I, one-on-one, mano a mano. I’d say maybe 15-20% of that time is pleasantly spent laughing, playing, reading, doing fun things.  The rest of the time is spent fussing, fighting, yelling, disciplining, dragging, popping, and all other types of foolish defiance-induced struggling.

I had to step back the past couple of weeks and think of what might be contributing to this behavior. I thought about his being 3 year old and how every article I’ve read says that its the 3s that are the real trouble, not the 2s. Ok, I’ll give him that. I thought about how rapidly he is developing physically, mentally, and emotionally, and how difficult it must be to try and navigate all of these internal changes being only 3 years old. Poor guy, right? I thought about the separation, and how it might be causing issues for him as he tries to adjust to his family being separated and his going back and forth between two homes. That’s a lot to deal with at 3. I thought about how, in his new child care setting, he is allowed a lot more freedom and provided with a lot less discipline than he once was. His father’s step-mother is his primary caregiver, and let’s be honest, she spoils him rotten (like she did her own sons).

My son has become a demanding little beast who does not take “No” for an answer. Everything is a negotiation. He  went from always saying, “Mommy can I have some juice please?” to “Mommy. Juice.” I spent an entire weekend retraining him to ask politely for the things he wants. And then, when he does ask and I say “No”, his response is “But Mommmmmmmy, you can’t say ‘No’!” or he comes and hits me, scowls his face, and follows up with “You don’t tell me ‘No’!” or somehing to that effect. Or, he comes back 5 seconds later, “How about now?”

Wait… what? Where did he learn that mess?? Who is jumping at every demand that he puts forth that he ever got it into his mind that 1. it’s ok to make demands 2.  it’s ok to hit me and 3. it’s ok to yell at me and tell me what to do??

As the young folks say, “Where they do that at?”

I feel like I spend the majority of our time in disciplinary mode and it is wearing me out! It is making it very difficult for me to enjoy my time with my son and thus making it hard for me to connect with him the way I want to. Since connecting with him has been an issue since he was born, for other reasons, this concerns me a great deal. I feel like I’m playing Good Cop, Bad Cop, and guess which one I am?

Occasionally, I feel a sense of dread when I have to pick him up, especially if I know he hasn’t taken a nap that day (which happens often because his caregivers aren’t making him nap). I prepare for the inevitable evening meltdown that will ruin any plans I had for that time and I prepare myself for battle. When I drop him off on Mondays, sometimes I breathe a sigh of relief.  Then, I feel sad for ever feeling this way.

I’m doing my best to remain consistent in my disciplinary tactics, but little is working short of popping him with the “Bad Boy Stick” which is a wooden spoon. Even then, he stares at me like “So? That’s all you got?” and I feel horrible for having spanked him (I’m already against spanking). When I see how ineffective it is, it makes me feel like it’s not worth it. Someone recently said, “Hit him harder”, but is that the answer? Really?

He has always had an indepedent streak. I try to support it. He wants to do things on his own, so I allow him the space to do that. But with that comes often bad behavior that I have to correct, when I feel no one else is. The other day, I had reached a breaking point and I was in near tears asking him, “Why are you so mean to Mommy? Why do you behave like a bad boy so much? Why can’t we have fun and smile and laugh and play?”

He started crying and said “I’m so sorry Mommy!!” and threw his arms around me wimpering. He then said, “Because I want Daddy here”. I don’t want to believe that he understood what I was asking well enough to answer that way, but at the end of the day, I think I have my answer.

The man of my dreams

So, I was going to write about something else today, but today is too special to ignore. Today is the day that my soul mate turns 32 years old. That may not seem significant to those of you reading this, but it is to me. You see, I’ve been with him since he was 17 and I was 16. March 2010 we will celebrate 15 years of being together. And in June, 8 years of wedded bliss (well it wasn’t always blissful, but that’s for another blog). We have literally grown up together and been through ups and downs together. What didn’t kill us, made our union stronger. I’m sure you are now asking what this has to do with being a Cocoa Mama.

To me, my union with my baby daddy has everything to do with being a Cocoa Mama. I couldn’t imagine, and try not to think about, what my life would be like without him. I often ask him questions about his childhood. He grew up with a brother 3 years younger. This is the same age difference between our boys. As I watch our sons interact I began to ask…Did you and your brother fight like this? Were you friends growing up? What type of relationship did you have? What did you think of your mother growing up? What did you think of your father? What was your relationship like with your parents growing up? Did you want to be like your dad?

You see, we have always communicated about our childhood experiences and what our children’s experiences will be like. But, I find myself constantly in awe of my in-laws, my husband and my children. Of course we talk about the things that our parents did that we swear we will not do. But, we also recognize the wealth of knowledge we gained through the unconditional love we both received. I consider myself fortunate to have this man be the male role model in the lives of my boys. If they are have the man their dad is, the world better watch out.

And as an educated Cocoa Daddy who puts his family at the forefront of everything that comes his way, I say thank you. To my best friend, thank you for allowing me to be your partner in life. Thank you for being the father who plays football in the basement, baseball in the backyard and reads to the boys every night before bedtime (well now our oldest reads to him every night). Thank you for encouraging me to pursue my dreams while picking up the slack at home. Thank you for getting upset when people congratulate you for “babysitting” your own children. Thank you for being my sanity and telling me, “Honey, go lay down. I’ve got the boys.” Thank you for allowing me to be the Cocoa mama that I am.

32 years ago, the Lord in is divine wisdom saw fit to bring forth into the world the best friend, confidant, baby daddy and lover (that’s right, I said it cause I can) a girl could pray for. Happy Birthday Clifton Holmes! I pray that God blesses you with many more. I love you!

Annie is a CocoaMama who is married to her best friend of 15 years. They have two sons, a 6  year old and a 3 year old. She currently works at the Pennsylvania State University full time where she  is also completing her doctoral degree in higher education. She has worked and been a student for as  long as she has been a mother. So, she has had to learn how to simultaneously juggle all of her  identities. While she has not perfected this skill, she continues to assure that her family remains her  number one priority.