"I hope you die," my 13-year-old son said to me last night, after I told him he had to stop playing his x-box.
We can leave aside for the moment the whole topic of what these *&^%$ games are doing to our children's brains -- and of who, exactly, was the negligent parent who allowed the xbox into our house.
Let's just limit this blog to what he said, and what I did.
My son has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, which, as I'm learning, is a major glitch involving what are known as executive functions, including self-restraint and thinking about consequences.
At times, ADD can resemble Tourette's Syndrome, that disorder that makes people shout out curses and racial epithets, against their better judgment.
"You wouldn't punish your child for having Tourette's, would you?" a therapist asked at a seminar I recently attended.
Nope. But the devilish thing about being the parent of an ADD child is that the limits aren't always that clear. The line continually shifts between explanation and excuse.
I've gotten into a habit of ignoring a lot of epithets and insults in favor of trying to strengthen a bond between me and my son that weakened alarmingly during a couple of years in which I didn't understand how he was struggling. I've made a vow to substitute appreciation and understanding for punishment and trying to win.
But last night was really too much!
So I took the pair of boxer shorts he wanted me to mend and placed them gently in his lap. "I love you, son, but words matter, and for the next 24 hours, I'm going to let you see how it might be if you got your wish." And then I stopped talking to him.
I didn't make him breakfast, lunch or dinner, throttling down that maternal instinct that really likes to watch him eat healthy food. (He cooked himself Ramen; I tried not to watch.) I made myself scarce for most of the day, and at home, drifted by him in the hall like a ghost. I didn't drive him anywhere, and when he called from the mall with his friend to ask for money, (the chutzpah, huh?!) I gently reminded him of his wish.
It's now early evening, and he just came into my office and said, "Mom, I understand why you did what you did, and I'm really sorry for what I said."
"Ok," I said, and left it at that. This was the most articulate apology he's ever delivered to me in his life. It's a step forward, I guess....