Ben is dyslexic. He's extremely bright and has overcome that disability in all kinds of ways. He is a trail-blazer, both professionally and well, on the trail. I actually have a theory about dyslexia - talk to me long enough and you'll learn I have theories on almost everything. Because kids with dyslexia are forced to learn in different ways, because the conventional teaching methods don't work for them, they, when they're resourceful, can reinvent the wheel. (So many bike analogies!) In their adult lives, when they're confronted with a puzzle that others, using traditional methods, can't solve, they can see the problem in a fresh way and often achieve a solution. I know - or know of - a lot of dyslexics that are superstars in business.
When Ben was a kid, however, being dyslexic, particularly in the relatively unaware seventies, was terrible. He was ridiculed, belittled, called stupid. It scarred him. Part of his own self-perception, a small part, but present all the same, is that he's not smart. It both kills me and amazes me that this is so. He is, in his way, possibly the smartest person I know. The idea that the kid in him can't believe that is so sad.
Not surprisingly, Ben is sensitive to kids calling each other dumb. Hence, while my children freely swear (though not at each other), the word "stupid" is verboten. And, of course, very popular. The girls know not to use it but it's popped out of their mouths enough times for Mihiretu to understand it's power. Therefore, when Mihiretu is in a mood, which lately is almost always, everything and everyone is "shupid".
Ben is gone for most of this month and I'm starting to get worn down. The longer he's away, the less secure Mihiretu feels and the worse his behavior. The worse his behavior, the farther down I'm ground. We're in something of a downward spiral at the moment. He pushes my buttons, I get impatient. He is hurt that I'm impatient, he pushes more buttons. And so on and so on.
Yesterday, we were getting in the car and he was mad about something. Don't remember what now. Wrong shoes? Music wasn't on? Or, and I think this was it, he had stepped on my sunglasses when he was playing in the front seat before I, laden with lunch and swimsuits and towels, could get to the car. I'm sure I got mad, asked him not so gently to please not play in the front, as I've asked almost every day. To which he responded, "You shupid."
And to which I said, under my breath but audibly, "Sometimes I think you shupid, too."
I've never called him or any of my kids stupid or even shupid before. That one probably isn't in the parenting how-to manuals. And for a guy that throws that word around like rice at a wedding, it was like I had struck him with a dagger. So hurt, so offended. Rightfully so, I guess. Though I don't think he knows what it means beyond being an insult. He only knows that the insults are only supposed to flow one way.
Don't call the social worker on me. I'm very much the imperfect parent right now. When I do get a break, I keep trying to center myself so that I can be patient and loving when I see him again. It doesn't seem to be working. When I'm in the valleys with him, and there have been many, it's so hard to remember the view from the top of the mountain, and to have faith that we will get there again. Shupid, shupid valleys.