Everyone knows I'm a koumpounophobe so I don't actually possess any buttons to push, but even my 11 year old boy can find them. Find them with such pinpoint accuracy as would befit a sniper, then deploy them, waiting around for the blow-up. The more I read about this, the more I realise how much I'm complicit in this - not totally to blame, but I can certainly help to avoid it.
It all started - well when he was born, no seriously, about two years ago when I identified that I was getting really stressed out in the mornings with our school routine. Five minutes before he was due to walk or I was due to drive him, he'd come out with lines like "Oh I need to take in my football today" - cue hunt in the garden or garage. Or "I would like to scoot today please". I know I sound unreasonable, but these things organised the night before are fine. More than fine. But hell, when we're both trying to get out of the door but only one of us understands the need to be in school on time, it makes me unreasonable. Where is dad in all of this? Well of course, he needs to leave half an hour before us. Those magic 30 minutes - due to traffic, oh yes - but it's during these few minutes that all the conflict occurs! Even my answer of "Well it's too late for this, maybe tomorrow" sets me up for an annoyance and anger that I can't really explain. At any other time of the day, I'd just ignore it and make him wait until the next day, but I suppose I'm just not that calm in the mornings. My dear mother-in-law helpfully suggested (yes helpfully, I don't have an annoying butting-in MIL) that he gets ready the night before and that I go into the other room for some time in the mornings to avoid any episodes starting. This worked a treat; my son was on board and all was well. Buttons not pressed. Buttons in fact idly hanging around unpressed.
Forwarding to this year - year 6. Despite me believing he's emotionally immature (and that's not all that bad, he's got plenty of time to grow up), he's been able to emotionally push my buttons on a few occasions. So successfully once earlier this year that it took my mates in the staff room to help me understand what had happened! I forget the start of the conversation, but it went on to him saying he wanted to be a famous YouTuber. Like the "I wanna be a famous footballer" conversations we'd had a few years back, I tried to say he needed a Plan B in case his YouTube channel didn't yield as much financial success as he'd liked. Oh dear. By saying this, I'd totally ruined, no crushed, the hopes and dreams of an 11 year old. How bad did I feel? Quite bad. Recognising this, he went on to add that no one liked him at school and he was always getting bullied/teased. I then felt like the worst parent in the whole world and went to bed on this. My friends in the staff room the next day almost laughed in my face and told me, "You've been had!" I realised what he'd done. Oh he was good at it, and since he's done this a couple of times since, I'm beginning to wonder if he is as emotionally immature as I'd first thought!
But his forte, his piece de resistance (can't do accents on this, sorry), is the ability to push my buttons with his physical/oral actions, such as:
- walking too close to me that he falls over me, or I fall over him
- standing on my feet while walking too close next to me (are his size 7 feet he just too big for himself?)
- cracking his knuckles (now I regret showing him that Facebook article debunking the arthritis link)
- constant rudeness - not answering back, though he's achieved Exceeding for that - no I mean the rude jokes. I'm glad we can discuss things like boners and other funny areas of puberty/sex ed without getting embarrassed as it means he may talk to me when he's older about serious stuff, but when it's a barrage of "That's what she said" quips, it just gets too much. My best friend came down for the weekend and unfortunately we just laughed at him because, well, he was funny - but it just got worse until he'd reached a limit he probably didn't realise was there. It wasn't just bants anymore, it was too much.
I can't even describe how annoying he was during a walk, time at a fair, trip up the Tower, lunch etc. Don't get me wrong, he's funny and we all laughed appropriately but he went overboard. He didn't know when to stop, which is funnily enough what his teacher said. My friend said her university-bound stepson had pushed her buttons the same way he was pushing mine.
So how do I cope with this? I can't just keep getting annoyed with him. It's not fair on him to hear me yelling, whilst doing that cry/laughing, "Shut up!" or for me to look forward to him playing on his X-Box for an hour. One of the obvious differences is he has no audience today.
Today, we're back on our own again. He has a broken arm and is stuck for things to do somewhat, but also the weather is horrendous. He's been lovely. We've been shopping for school uniform today and had a cafe-stop afterwards. Not a crossed word between us. (I'm sure this will change when dad gets in, but that alpha-male-ism issue is another blog post.) I've done some research online. Here's what I've come up with:
Keep calm. Don't let my anger becomes the reward for him. I can say to him "I'm going to think about this in another room, but I will come back and I'm not ignoring you". I can repair to my room to think about it, to calm down, to find an appropriate response. Try to respond with humour, if appropriate. I'm bound to need this next week when we visit my parents, as there is always tension between him and my dad as he gets bored - my son that is!
One comment from another button-pushed mum really summed it all up. She said, "Now that she's a teenager, I can understand why some animals eat their young." As long as we don't reach that point, I'm sure we'll be ok!