Who Sends Mom to Time-Out?
edited: Monday, June 04, 2001
By TL Gray
Posted: Monday, June 04, 2001
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What can Mom do when family arguments constantly put her in the middle? Find out.
Who Sends Mom To Time-Out?
© T. L. Gray 2001
I dream of a day when, standing in the middle of a completely ridiculous argument between Tarzan and Boy—which is basically like trying to make peace in the Middle East—I’ll be ordered to cease and desist from ranting on about what children they are and how tired I am of constantly having to play referee to their petty bickering. In my fantasy—and let’s face it, that’s exactly what it is--I’m ordered to remove and hand over the proverbial object of authority—my whistle—and sent to my room with the words, “You’re in Time Out, Sister,” echoing in my disbelieving ears.
Secretly, I’ve come to believe my husband and son actually enjoy getting under my skin. Why else would they argue over how to correctly tie a tennis shoe (like anybody cares), until a full scale shouting match--led by me, the in-house referee--escalates into a lecture session that ends with me taking a private meeting with each to explain the other’s position, motives, and basic thinking on said subject? Why can’t they just get along?
Alas, neither husband nor son—either separately or in unison--is going to send me to my room with instructions to stay there until I’ve learned my lesson. Because that, my dears, would be a treat beyond imagination, and they know it. No way are they going to knowingly provide me with alone time. Just like they’ll never say, “Hey, take the day off. We’ll do the dishes and the laundry.” In a large bi-level house with eleven rooms, plus a huge closet under the stairs, you’d think I could find a place to hide from all the bickering. (I can’t hide in the garage, it’s too full of junk.) It’s like a contest to see which side I’ll take. Perhaps it’s a father-son thing to disagree on most everything, with the exception of discussing body functions at the dinner table and confiscating my Victoria’s Secret catalog before I can get a look at it. And they wonder why I check my scalp for gray hair on a regular basis; why I worry over what will become of them if something should happen to me; who’ll keep them from killing each other? Who’ll explain teenage behavior to Tarzan? Or expectations of what a man should be to Boy? Will they learn how to communicate, or will they simply grow apart, each taking a wide path around the other so they won’t have to actually have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around body functions?
These are the things that can drive a mother to panic attacks. Which they did, thankyouverymuch.
The funny thing about this whole drama is that Tarzan and Boy somehow manage to get along when I’m not in residence. The serious concern here is, I’m tired, dammit. Tired of watching them circle each other like Mongoose and Cobra. Tired of listening to each blame the other for imagined transgressions. They truly don’t realize the stress heaped on me, as a mother and a wife, during and after these little episodes. My son feels as though I’ve betrayed him by siding with his father. My husband thinks I’m letting Boy get away with murder.
Well guess what? The last time they entered the ring with gloves at the ready I placed myself in Time Out. It was me or them, and in order to preserve my sanity I chose me. They were a bit stunned at my self-initiated retreat. I think it rather took some of the wind out of their sails. I looked them straight in the eye, yanked my whistle from around my neck, and threw it to the ground. “I’m done,” I told them. “Kill each other if that’s what makes you happy. Just be sure and clean up the blood when you’re done, because I just ran the sweeper.” With that, I marched to the bedroom and slammed the door in their dumbfounded faces. Oh, they still argued, but it was mostly over which one of them was the cause for my sudden change in attitude.
Meanwhile, I ran a hot bath, lit some scented candles, and turned on the whirlpool jets to drown them out. I slathered on lotion afterward, all the while wondering if I was going to have to replace the carpet when they’d finished. Bloodstains are so hard to get out. Then again, new carpet might not be such a bad idea. I refused to open the door and listen to see how things were going. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. After all, the only one who came out of each encounter crazed was me.
Who won the argument? I have no idea. I didn’t ask. It almost killed me but I remained, at least on the surface, uninterested. There was no blood on the carpet when I came out of the bedroom. So much for that idea. One the other hand, I looked marvelous with newly painted toe nails, freshly washed hair, and smooth skin. And I was much more relaxed mentally.
Because mothers are natural nurturers they have a hard time letting go of people and situations they’ve put so much time and energy into tending. Besides being a nutritionist, doctor, dentist, racecar driver, math tutor, psychologist, cook, maid, economist, and a hundred other things rolled into one, mothers are peacemakers. They want harmony and love to prevail in their homes. They want their children to grow up strong, independent, smart, and decent by basic social standards. They want marriages where they work together with their spouses as one unit. Where their opinions and knowledge are respected, sometimes even revered. But there comes a time when you simply have to step back and let some situations take care of themselves.
I take Time Out for me now, instead of being the one who broods over who, what, when, and why. I no longer agonize over how Tarzan and Boy will communicate, because I’ve discovered that their minds actually do meet on a plane I can’t comprehend. Like Mars.
These days, one warning look from me discourages them from entering the “fight zone” over frivolous issues. They still disagree on music, clothing styles, and whether or not I should buy a slinky nightgown from Victoria’s Secret. But they do agree on one thing: providing Mom with precious alone time is not in the game plan. And they’ve developed a sorta-kinda respect for each other’s views. In other words, they’ve learned to argue constructively. Or maybe they’ve just learned to argue quietly.