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How I became the 'bestest' mom for a day
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I tried earning my 5-year-old son's respect with trips to the park, riding his bike, reading books and jaunts to the zoo, but nothing was as surprisingly effective as the most delightful 10 seconds of my life. - photo by Amy Choate-Nielsen
My 5-year-old is amazing.

Hes got a bit of a reputation for being a troublemaker, but I think he is extraordinary.

Hes a middle child, and he surprises me constantly. It started when he was a baby.

I just knew he would be the one to look most like me, even when his eyes were still cloudy blue like most babies. I loved letting his hair grow long and unruly, a thick, curly mess of shiny brown, like mine. His eyes are the same half-moon shape as mine, with a deep brownish-green that seems to reflect four colors at once.

As soon as he could, he showed me he was different from my daughter. He climbed things she never did. He broke things purposefully she never would. He belched, she sang. He was defiant, cuddly and protective of me in ways my daughter never showed.

When he was born, I heard somewhere that boys especially love their mothers and girls especially love their fathers, and I wondered if that would be true. I believed it when he came to me with those big brown eyes and asked how my day was or told me I was the bestest mom ever. He is so enthusiastic.

Then he got a little older, and I got a little madder when he broke things. It drove me a little crazier when he shouted and screamed for fun. And I felt a little sadder when he giggled with delight only when his dad walked in the door. I was the one that told him to stop burping so loudly all the time, as it is rude.

Somebody once told me the key to being a good parent is not in your ability to discipline, it is in your efforts to build a relationship of love to the extent that your children will obey out of their respect and desire to please you. If that is the case, I was failing.

If there is one thing I would like to take from my grandmothers, and their grandmothers, and their grandmothers, it is the lessons they learned while parenting and what worked well and what didnt. I always have the feeling in the back of my head that I should be doing something differently. I automatically assume what I am doing is probably wrong. And they were probably right.

I wonder what my grandmother Fleeta, who died before I was born, would say about my middle son. Would she flinch every time he ran through the room? Would she scowl when he covered himself in dirt? Would she say he is a troublemaker?

I like to think shed laugh and give him a handful of candy. I wish I did that more. Not the candy, so much, but the laughter. I wish I remembered more that hes not an anarchist; hes amazing.

Alas, I know candy isnt the answer. At times, I dont know what the answer is. I dont want to always be bribing, begging or yelling, and my efforts to engender his respect didnt seem to work.

We went to the zoo, we read books together, we colored, we rode bikes, but every time, as soon as I said no to something, all of my hard-earned goodwill evaporated. We were back to square one.

Then, I had a breakthrough.

One day, as I was showering my kids before bed, my son let out the loudest, longest burp he ever had. He really has quite a flair for belching, and its not a talent he learned from his dad.

He inherited that skill from me.

So this time, instead of responding with my usual tsk, tsk, dont be rude, I opened my mouth and sent forth a sound that reverberated off of the four walls of my shower with an intensity that shook my ear drums and rumbled the floor for at least 10 seconds. By the time I was finished, my son was staring up at me speechless, his eyes as big as eggs, his mouth dropped in shock. He held the shock for a beat or two, then curled those eyes into my favorite half-moons and a slow grin crept up his face as a laugh erupted from deep in his belly. He hooted and squealed, he thought it was the funniest thing hed ever heard, and suddenly I realized, this is what it feels like to be respected by a 5-year-old.

Later that night, as he went to bed, he said to me, Mom, remember that time I laughed so hard in the shower? with the smile still lingering in his eyes and a tired chuckle.

Those are my favorite moments, the ones Id tell my grandkids about if I remember. Those are the moments that remind me that boy is amazing. Extraordinary.
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