War and Peace

I can barely open the door before it throws itself in my face, rattling against its frame. I rein in my voice like I’m working a pulley, and talk to the door.

“I said hurry and eat, brush, and go to bed. I’m leaving the house.” I can’t help flipping the pitch at the tail: “You happy?!” Sharon Olds can keep me company over fish tacos. I make a note to grab my beloved copy, as my head makes it into his room on the last try.

He releases his weight on the other side and flops on the bed. “You wanna leave? FINE!”

“I’ve done nothing wrong. I just pointed out that you need to be more responsible when I’m not here. You can’t not eat all evening and then stuff your head in the fridge just before bed. You don’t want indigestion again. But you need something to be able to sleep now.”

The words walk out of his mouth almost staccato, measured. The boy who still feeds and cuddles with his stuffed tiger cub suddenly sounds sixteen. “Mom, I didn’t have an appetite. I don’t need to eat now. It’s no big deal.”

“Do you know why I’m going?” The words are rocks, breaking apart. The tears burn. “I’m leaving because you hate me. I love you and you don’t want to be near me and I don’t want you to go to bed hungry.” Anger, love. One and the same passion. I storm down the stairs and he stands above me, hands on the banister.

“I don’t hate you!” he yells.

“Of course you do. Your actions say you do. You said I make you sick.”

Somebody come collect the boy’s jaw off the floor. His brows furrow, furious with indignation. “I never said that!”

“Yes, you did. And you blame me for everything.” For the backpack that throws up its contents on the floor, for the headphones you can’t find. For being your mother. “I’m going,” I turn, desperate for tissue, and he calls out, “Wait…I have to give you something.” He disappears into his room and as I blow my nose in the kitchen, I feel something hard closing into my free hand. A ruby out of his treasure box, plastic and pretty the way it gleams, his most prized keepsake. It looks like the rock candy I licked down to a mound at his age. Something to remember him by.

He thought I was leaving for the long haul.

He’s gone upstairs. And my stomach is arguing and turning. It won’t survive a wait for tacos, so I scout the fridge when I realize he’s back, pausing behind me a moment like a long comma. He drops a piece of paper to the floor and finally goes to bed.

My eyes are sore and tender as the tears swell. Isn’t this the home we seek of our journey? We roll the dice, kick it up on the boardwalk and go back three spaces – even go bankrupt. We hope we don’t perish in jail. We make our way along the edge of our wins and the losses, biding our autonomy. But at striving’s end, all we want is to lay it down, to say and hear I want you. I need you. Please stay.

140 thoughts on “War and Peace

      • Understand now. Glad to hear he is ten:) And as far as “stuffies”, mine is 19 and his are stowed safely on top of his closet; he’s not ready to give them up:)

      • LOLLLLLL. I see. I can see my little man doing that. You know, I read the horrible tale of a man (who grew up to be a police officer) who found himself in orphanages in NYC as a child though he had brothers. (Dad out of commission, Mom barely holding family together) And through all the alone yrs that he suffered abuse at the hands of nuns and foster parents, he held onto his stuffie into fatherhood. So touching. It’s bc that was the only faithful friend/brother he knew. My boy is an only and I can see him holding onto them even as he lets go of me.

        “He is suddenly sixteen” reads better but for the sake of clarity, I tweaked it to “sounds sixteen.” Now there’s no confusion. Thanks, D.

      • My boy an “only”, and I guess by heart pulled, thinking yours younger, I felt for you as I have come through 16 to 19. Scripture didn’t count the ” boys” as “men” until age 20. I am holding on to this for my “comfortee'”:) Blessings Diane… Before I post I think of your advice. .does it say something of value (paraphrase) Thank you wise woman:)

  1. Wonderful and pathetic story rolled into one. I’m not sure if this is semi- fiction or the real deal. At any rate, if is true I hope that somehow you’ll survive the teen years. Teen years are difficult and emotions and hormones are rapidly changing. I found that threats achieved little to noting. One never knows whether to treat their child as an adult or a child. One thing I learned early on was that, as the parent one can not hope to be their friend.

    I hope I have not missed the mark on this post. If T is sixteen, how in the world did he grow up so fast?

    • He “was” suddenly 16 by the way he was speaking that moment when, at 10, he is still so young to be feeding and patting his stuffed friends to sleep. My prepubescent boy swings from 7 to 17, the way he acts. I’m going to share your comment with Husband bc though it’s basic truth, he’d rather not hear it from wife. Sigh!!!

      • Oh my. Yes, please show my comment to your husband. I know that I am good at giving advice and I hope that you’ll forgive. Your son is acting out his emotions with the stuffed animals because that is how he views your treatment of him. Worrying about what or when he should eat becomes too much sometimes. He really needs a real animal to love and care for and I know that you strongly oppose a live animal. But I am writing this with love and caring for you and your family. Give my words here some serious thought. you can email me at yvonnedanielrn@yahoo.com

        Feel free to delete this comment since it might be too invasive and not appropriate for your blog I don’t mind that my email is there but you probably will be insulted by what I have written.

        I do care about you Diana. The fact that T. enjoys seeing the dogs and cats on my blog says a lot.

      • And he does not act out with his stuffies, though I think you meant he is mothering them as I do him. He is nurturing and needs them still. And yes, I realize you take that as a sign that he will be great with live animals. I don’t disagree. =)

  2. WOW! Wonderful description or maybe even short, well intended dissertation of a simple, yet complex interaction. Beautiful. The cooperated relationships always evolve, towards maturity, understanding , and the basis for everlasting love – or at least we hope! M 🙂

  3. I didn’t know feelings of the sort were still expressed in this language idiom. Feels like a page out of A Street Car Named Desire, minus the stuffed friends. Interesting piece, has me wonder about the motivation!, and what inspires you to compose, as well as expose. Love the staccato style opening and its peppering of it throughout…!

    • Not sure whose motivation you mean, though that is always a right question. It got a little complicated, my wanting him to eat at a time he shouldn’t, in the end, his refusal just because I wanted him to. But it was much more about food at that point. What inspires me to compose…gosh. The pathetic will to survive, ha ha ha ha.

  4. Had a night like that just this week, Diana. My oldest’s words and body language whispered, “I hate you.” Seems his young teen mind loves me, but not what I represent. Prickly time of life, those teen years.

  5. This is sooooo good!! Tears would be in my eyes with that note as well and they were just reading this! Teen years are so very tough! Hang in there, you will make it!!

  6. I’ve just finished reading all the comments and I can relate to so many. My boy is 16 and alternates between acting as if he’s 6 some days and 26 others. Silly and yet sometimes too mature for his own good. Challenging years without a doubt but also fraught with lots of rewards. You wrote this beautifully. Yes, hang in there!

  7. My husband majored in psychology in college and hated every minute of it, but he was always the best disciplinarian as our kids were growing up. He used to take each one that needed a “talk” out for coffee or pie and spend hours discussing their problems.

    One thing he kept reminding the boys was that there was a bull that wakes up in them during adolescence, and they often don’t recognize that some things they think and do are the “bull” (testosterone horrowmones).

      • 🙂 LOL He used several “tricks of the trade” to manipulate me, but mostly to avoid arguments. One rule he set down right at the first was never to discuss a problem the day it took place. Twenty-four hours was a good cushion for me to change my mood OR forget to mention it again. ❤ Since I am naturally *not* a grudge holder that pulled him through many a microscope with no damage.

      • LOL. Clever (sneaky?) That would be TriCky over here. If I don’t bring it up when it’s fresh to him, it’ll fade fast into the attention-deficit ether along with the impact of his wrong, and he feels like I’m just diggin’ up old dirt.

      • I probably did not understand that “trick” at the beginning, although once I when I complained and demanded to speak at least briefly about it “because otherwise I’ll forget about it.”

        His immediate reply was, “That was what I hoped for.”

        Anyway, the end result was that our children do not remember our ever quarrelling.

  8. Beautifully written. Don’t we all want certain moments to not end, and the good people to just stay… I do always believe that’s possible if you work hard enough at it. It’s probably one of the few things I’m optimistic about. As you said, anger and love are the one and same passion.

  9. Oh, my, this sounds all too familiar!!! I have one adult son, and one soon to be adult….love them with all my heart, but there were days when my tears flowed freely!

      • Oh my gosh, that sounded like my 2 sons, homeschooled them both till high school, then couldn’t stand the tears anymore, lol!! My oldest actually apologized to me for his actions, I really think that lifestyle nurtures family relationships, we are all very close, so fear not, it is worth it!!!

  10. One day after the age of 16 you both will be able to talk about this and laugh and cry a little about these delicate years. Some days we can’t believe some of the situations that happened and why… jc

  11. It’s all about the young testing boundaries. While they appear to be resisting in actual fact they secretly feel secure that those boundaries exist. Wait till the teenage years, that’s when the real excitement begins! lol. But the good news is they mature and love parents for setting those boundaries and caring during their formative years.

  12. If I could like this post a thousand times, I would. Wow, this is extraordinary. You stirred up so much emotion, I am sitting here writing these words still trying to catch my breath. You are raw and so incredibly gifted and always make me feel all the things. Well done, Diana! Just wow.

    • Aw, you can take it down a notch, T. LOL. So much emotion is right. It was a crazy evening and each day can turn on a dime! But some days you’ll find him pawing me, not able to get enough of Mom. omg. Between his hormones and mine, I think I should chk into a hotel during pms.

  13. Tough, D. I feel like I’ve been on this journey with you for a long time. Ups and downs. Seems so hard to grow up, and to be around when someone is growing up. I’ve just been around our grandkids for a couple of weeks. They’re younger, but still all of the drama, as each one tries to figure out who he is. –Curt

    • I can feel your knowing, friend. And you hit upon something big, how this is very much my own growing pains. My favorite poet, the one I mentioned in the post, said while watching her boy pull away in the bus to camp: everything that was done to him he now will do. That wopped me on the head for days. Thanks so much for sharing in this, for remembering.


  14. Thank you for this beautifully written creation. I guess you are able to stir emotions in any reader. Well, this post of yours touches me for sure as it happens with the rest of your writing which I usually share on Facebook and with friends. I like how you deal with the opposites love-hate which are, in this case and very often, two sides of the same coin in human nature. Also, my greatest admiration for those of you who have chosen to raise children and who know how to deal with teenagers testing their boundaries. We, teachers, try to provide young people with the best possible education. In many cases we even treat our students as if we were second parents.

    • Thank Goodness for teachers who nurture and love ~ that should be the aim of education ~ to teach youngsters how to love and respect themselves, others and the beauty of knowledge or help unearth a beautiful talent to help build a better world. Education should not be a chore but a joy ~ thank you to all the teachers I have known who have recognised in me, themselves, and allowed me to recognise myself in turn. It is called The Wheel of the Fortunate ………. life should not be a game of Russian Roulette. Instead, fortune should be bestowed on those who ask for it, search for it and above all are grateful for the wisdom that we hand down to our children. As Whitney Houston so eloquently sang.

  15. I feel your pain through your great writing. But it will pass. Just take one day at a time, sigh and swallow, do yoga, and pray A LOT. And remember: don’t take it personal bc it’s not. Much love and keep strong!

  16. Oh, Diana, I hear you! I have an 11 year-old granddaughter going on 16 that gives her mother quite a ride. But, so true in the end all we want are the words, “I want you. I need you. Please stay.” Where are those tissues! Those words still bring tears to my eyes.

  17. As cliche as it is, it can’t be said enough: Parenting is the hardest job in the world. With pride, rightfully so, we show the world our family photos with smiling faces, boast of our children’s successes and beam at their accomplishments. But there’s not enough said about what goes on behind the scenes because that’s not the part we typically share. It is forever a work in progress, and with adult children, a whole new set of challenges surface. The labor of love continues.

  18. Just this weekend my Mum sent me photographs of little notes I left for her and cards I made with messages in them, treasure all the changes, I was always told ‘starve then’ if I refused to eat and ‘don’t come looking for anything else till breakfast’ hehe.

    • So little Charlotte could be a brat, eh? lol. Your mum would be proud of me: I let him just stay in his room that night after the note and go to bed. Didn’t chase him with the food. That is precious that she was able to get those childhood confessions back to you.

  19. Oh Diana… sometimes as we mold our children for adulthood, it feels like we are losing part of ourselves to build them up. I think you already know this, but I’ll say it again: it is worth it in the long haul!

    • Oh, no encouragement is superfluous. Yesterday was a nightmare…he later called it World War Seven, lol (cry…). Problem is, I am seeing more how parenting requires the delicate hand of a lapidary. Me — I speak loudly and carry a big stick. Aye!

  20. My younger son and I would “battle.” Now that he is grown up and married, I see that the “battles” primarily reflected our different personalities and views on the world. We still have differences of opinions, but we are closer than ever with a comfortable relationship. (Note: he lives less than 2 miles from me.) May that be encouragement as you navigate (sometimes with grace, sometimes with force, but always draped in love) these tough years of parenting!

  21. A precious memory to savor. Save that piece of paper! (I have a feeling you’ve already stashed it safely.) Not only did I enjoy the story but the clever, thoughtful way you expressed yourself. You are a gifted writer, H.W.! P.S. Thank you for becoming a follower of my blog, From the Inside Out. I pray you’ll find the posts meaningful.

  22. Oh, this breaks my heart. Having been the anchor–the stabilizing force–the one that can’t run even when she wants to in a weak moment–to have him think for even a moment you’d leave for good–ach. They are so raw, these children of ours . . .

  23. You made me teary. These squabbles will be gone before you know it and you will wonder where the time went. It goes FAST! This is my first year as an empty nester. I can now smile at both the good and the difficult times raising two boys. Notes like that are priceless and more than compensate for the daily “mommy crap” we muddle through. Loved this!

  24. If your’re anything my wife and I, one day you will hear your grandson say to you, “Why don’t you move close to us.” So that is what we are planning to do, now that retirement is within our grasp – Lord willing.

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