Thursday, June 18, 2009

Goodnight My Angel

We had had one of those perfect, fabulous, family days. Got out early. Went to the zoo. Gloriously sunny day. Had lunch. Laughed...a lot. Came home and sat outside while the kids splashed each other at the water table. And then the Attitude arrived. I write Attitude with a capital A not because I am not paying attention to my typing but because this Attitude is by no means small and insignificant. This Attitude rears its big ugly head quite often in our home and takes possession of our sweet, angelic seven year old boy. It started with a "NO SAM!" followed by a "CUT IT OUT EMMA!" There were disciplinary interjections made but alas it ended with a shove to the two year old sister, a shout from the mom, and a banishment to his room.

After some time, I went up for a meeting with the boy and realized that the Attitude had not left the building yet. Later, on my second attempt at reconciliation, I was happy to see that my seven year old, while still sauncy, was back, sans Attitude. We talked about the implications of his mood and actions and made nice. However, slouching back against his brother's bed, he still looked sad. "Why does your face look that way still? What's bothering you?" I asked. His reply was a pointing finger towards a framed copy of the lyrics to Goodnight, My Angel by Billy Joel. I looked at him, perplexed and shrugged. In a wobbly voice he answered, "I read that like two or four times and it made me so happy," and burst into tears. Without a moment's hesitation, I jumped up and pulled him into my arms. He was genuinely sobbing and trying to talk at the same time. "Every...single...sentence...made"

Now if you are unfamiliar with the song here is the Cliff Notes version. It is a lullaby sung from parent to child that assures this child that the parent will always be around, if not physically then spiritually. I have loved the song since I first heard it in college. It has a beautifully haunting quality to it. And once I had children, it took on a whole new meaning.

Once Alex calmed, I asked him if he remembered our story behind the song and why it was hanging in his room. He didn't. So I told him. When he was an infant, he cried...A LOT. I would play all kinds of music for him all of the time in efforts to quiet him. One day, while waiting for someone at a parking lot in Pembroke, this song came on and he just stopped. It completely silenced him. When it ended, he started up again and I couldn't push the back button on the CD player quickly enough. At the first note, he stopped again. After that, this song was played in our home regularly. When he wasn't with us, the CD was left with the babysitter with a note: If he won't stop crying, put on #9 and keep repeating it. This always does the trick. This was common practice (we probably wore the CD out) until the toddler years were upon us and thank God, the crying stopped and Alex became a happy-go-lucky little guy. The song was hanging in his room, but playing it wasn't necessary anymore.
It seems I have entered a new phase with my son. Most times are wonderful: intellectual conversations about politics, history, and space, baseball games, lego creations that impress me every time, endearing proclamations of his love for us, proud moments when he shows us the true goodness that is such a part of him. But then there are the times when the seven year old Attitude starts bubbling to the surface. This is inevitable and unavoidable, I know. However, I feel better knowing now I have a defense against it. Upon its imminent arrival, I will simply scroll down the numerous songs on my IPod, locate Goodnight, My Angel and hit play.