I called my son a little fuckface.

Not to his face! I said it under my breath after closing the door to the den, where he was watching a Land Before Time video.

But still. I called a four-year-old, a four-year-old who also happens to be the person I love most in the world, a little fuckface.

I had been making tacos when he took a break from the movie he was watching, “while dinner was making,” to come barreling into the kitchen on a mission.

“I don’t want tacos!” he shouted. “I won’t eat them! I won’t eat them ever!”

He flung open a cupboard, grabbed a package of pasta and said, “I want this. I want pasta for dinner! Make pasta! I won’t eat those tacos ever!”

Flustered, I said, “Well, they’re not really tacos. They’re burritos.” I’d been calling them tacos, but really the meat, rice, and beans I was making were going to be rolled up in tortillas.

He squinted at me. He turned his back to me and started making his way back into the den to watch his video.

“Okay, I’ll eat a burrito,” he said before he disappeared into the hallway.

The battle was over and I’d won, but I was still fuming. When did he become such an imperious brat? How did he get off bossing me around like that? He’s not allowed to come in here, where I’m slaving over a hot stove to make dinner for him, and start shouting orders at me.

A-ha.

I marched into the den and paused his movie.

“We had a deal today. If you shouted at me one more time, you wouldn’t get a special treat after dinner. Well, you just shouted at me again. So, no special treat after dinner!” I said, very pleased with myself.

Then I hit “play” on the clicker, strutted back out of the room, closed the door behind me and said under my breath, “Little fuckface.”

No, he’s not supposed to shout at me and he’s not supposed to boss me around. But he has a pretty good excuse: He’s four years old, and learning to assert himself—contradicting his parents, rejecting what we offer, imposing his will, whatever form it takes—is an important part of this developmental stage.

What’s my excuse?

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