On Sneaking Candy, channeling the flash, and Sucker Punches: Michael Mayhem at Four

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Michael book guitar

He looks innocent when he’s “reading,” doesn’t he?

There comes an inevitable day in every parent’s life when you have to recognize that you can’t treat your baby like a baby anymore.

It’s an organic process as long as you keep having more kids, because real babyhood keeps presenting itself. But although I’ve been aware of, and even partially on top of, this transition with Michael, it’s just since school let out that I’ve realized how far past time it is.

He’s not the sweet, faultless child in every altercation anymore. In fact, as Wednesday’s post should have made clear, he’s got a pretty strong deceptive/willful/selfish side going.

He’s incredibly smart, starting to write letters although we do no such work in our family on things like that, and connecting starting sounds with letters (“S begins with STOP!” is the usual formula). He wants to do homework and have his work hung on the hutch and the deck door with everyone else’s.

He wants to be grown up. He insists upon using the “big boy” silverware (i.e. dinner fork and soup spoon), even though all his older siblings want the small ones, and he’s constantly asking me, “When will I be big enough to sit without a booster seat/play an instrument/drive a car/ride a motorcycle?”

He’s constantly taking things apart, just because he can. The words “Leave it alone! Don’t mess with things just to mess with them!” don’t seem to have any meaning.

He’s throwing and catching balls and running better than any of his siblings did at his age, or two years older than his age, for that matter.

And speaking of running. Oh, the running! He’s really into the Flash right now, and he braces and then launches himself across whatever space he has. Which is not nearly enough, I might add; stopping is almost universally a problem. Let me put it this way. When it comes time to slide into home plate, he’ll have already had lots of practice. In the meantime, he’s mostly bouncing off the walls. Literally.

And oh, that child is causing trouble in sibling land. Other people must share with him, but “that toy is MINE! You can’t play with it!” Obviously, he ate Nicholas’ special candy. I tell him to put away a toy, and not to throw it on the floor, but actually put it on the shelf. Then I go downstairs to find it on the floor anyway. That kind of stuff.

Oh yes, I forgot. The Facebook world heard this gem, but the bloggers have not. And it’s a good one.

He’s been punching lately. It’s not malicious; he’s just playing superhero-bad guy, and the bigger kids, by and large, didn’t realize what kind of monster they were creating until it was too late. Well, Nicholas knew it. But Nicholas wasn’t encouraging him the way everyone else was, either.

Michael loves to get a laugh from people, and the punching thing makes big kids laugh. Until one night at a baseball game he was punching complete stranger kids, and they realized it hurt! I had to make him sit on my lap for the last twenty minutes of the game, because he wouldn’t stop, no matter what I or anyone else said. It was deeply unpleasant for both of us. He is a wiggly, wiggly kid.

But the kicker was last week at the grocery store, when Alex and I were perusing the yogurt options, and Michael caught him completely unawares with a Flash-run and a full-power sucker punch to the sternum. Alex went down in a heap on the floor, trying to control his poor tween hormones and pride while in deep pain. I could see him trying not to wail, scream, or retaliate.

It was hard to decide whether to laugh or be furious. Either way I couldn’t punish, because we were in public. Actually, that turned out to be a positive, because by the time we got to the car I’d had a burst of inSpiration. Michael had to do one of Alex’s weekly cleaning jobs as a consequence for punching his brother. Which, I have to admit, he did with very good grace.

It’s hard not to keep a tender spot for your youngest child, but he has the potential within him to be a holy terror if I don’t rein him in. And it just about has to be me, because he’s got the mama’s boy thing honed to an art form, much more so than the other two boys. Yesterday, he would not hold his daddy’s hand. “I want to hold mommy’s hand!” he said.

“Why not? Do you like me?” Christian asked, grinning at me.

“No!”

“Do you like Mommy?”

“Yeah!”

Four and a half. And still earning the nickname Mayhem.

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