Little Nuts

It was 48 degrees in our living room this morning because my husband prefers to heat the house with dog breath at night rather than use the radiators. This didn’t bother my kindergartener—he leaves sock graveyards all over the house in winter. Don’t need those. I know—socks are for reptiles. But my warm-blooded boy won’t even wear a sweatshirt over a long-sleeved t-shirt because it’s too hot and it feels weird.

What mind-milking malady is this? I can’t keep his tactile or taste preferences straight.

Here’s what he eats: pizza, Grape Nuts, broccoli, kale, and toothpaste.

This may sound like a darned good deal to you, but to me, it’s maddening. Plus, we’re vegetarians, so if we don’t eat kale, I think we get thrown out.

One morning recently, my kindergartener was getting ready for school. He didn’t want to wear a jacket, but after I told him he’d freeze his nipples off, he relented. His backpack was heavy that day because I’d signed him up for yet another after-school activity to keep him and his sister from trashing my kitchen with their ulcer-activating baking experiments.

When he put the backpack on over his jacket, it didn’t feel right. I offered to help him buckle the pack across his chest. I thought that high-tech suggestion was pretty awesome. My boy is sometimes nerdy like that. Not this time.

I was tired. I had a meeting. I kept thinking the kids were almost out the door and then…nope.

You can’t force a 45-pound kid to do anything unless you’re willing to sit on him. He saw me coming at him and he threw down his jacket and backpack, refusing school altogether.

Suddenly, I felt anger sliding out of my heart like a famiglia of bocce balls on a down-ramp. I knew I should stop and walk away, stick my head in the freezer, something like that. But the walking bus was coming toward our house to pick up my kids, one of whom was stomping his feet and hiding behind a plant.

Untrammeled by such wisdom as I’d like to have in these situations, I pitched our morning into a nose dive.

“Fine! If you want to go out there in a t-shirt and freeze your little nuts off, go ahead! Wear whatever you want!”

I guess I could have thrown a pie in his face and dropped a meadow muffin on his shoes to boot. And what’s with referring to his “little nuts”? How deranged is that? He doesn’t yet know that some day, he’ll find part of his manhood in that puckered pair, but I do. I know that.

When the smoke had cleared from my emotional stink bomb, he wouldn’t talk to me. Who could blame him? I don’t care about you, I’d basically said. I knew I’d just flunked into the parenting lab for idiots, and it wasn’t the first time I’d seen the side of that paddle. So I threw his jacket, backpack, and his little brother into the car, and I drove him to school.

I’m supposed to protect my son from frostbite. But his persistent particularity might just be the way he achieves independence, and I know I should sanction that. Plus, I can still tell my toddler what to do; I’m pretty sure he’d wear a jack-o-lantern if I cut a hole in the bottom wide enough for him to run away from me when I called. So this winter, come frozen nipples or nuts, I’m all about letting my kindergartener learn that lesson on his own.

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