Ezra is 3. He is absolutely adorable and, even though I am horribly biased, if you met him, I think you would agree.
We have all heard the Nature v. Nurture argument. I think that is a stupid argument. You cannot separate the two things and so it is therefore impossible to tell which one has more influence. Ezra’s major issue is his temper. He comes by this honest, as his father has a temper that he can barely control at 38, so you can imagine that his 3 year old will have a problem controlling his little temper. Ezra hits or kicks when he gets angry. Not people, but things: walls, furniture, toys, etc., and usually with an accompanying angry little grunt. Lately when this happens he has taken to telling me, “I NOT you best friend. I angry.” The first time he told me this, I had to stifle a laugh (don’t worry, he did not see. I would never allow him to see me making light of his feelings). He is sincere and earnest about his feelings and it was that very depth of feeling that comes off very cute. Unfortunately, it will not be cute for long and I am struggling to teach him how to handle these emotions appropriately. He is welcome to be angry and tell me, but he is not to act out physically. I have thought about getting him a bean bag I can put in his room and let him beat on it to get these feelings of anger and frustration out. His father does not agree with this and thinks we should teach him that any kind of physical display of anger is inappropriate and will not be tolerated. However, having seen Ezra’s father put his hand through a wall next to me, rattle dishes by slamming his fist on counter tops and throw books across a room – all over the age of 35 – I don’t think there is much of a chance of him teaching Ezra to control his angry impulses. Luckily for me, I do not live at Ezra’s dad’s house… and Jay and I can do things as we see fit at our house. Also, Jay and I don’t have temper issues, so I am hoping this will help.
Ezra is also possessive. He and Jay play the “My Mommy/My Marnie” game where they play fight over me. I do the “My Jay” game with Ezra. He will also crawl into bed with us and insinuate his little self in between us and burrow in. Ezra is very affectionate. He gives lots of kisses and hugs and loves his mommy the best. As Jay pointed out, Ezra is going to be pissed about this baby. Maybe not at first, but it will come. We will not be telling him about the baby for quite a while. I am sure we will once it is obvious enough for Ezra to ask questions, but he will still not get it. It is one thing to tell Ezra there is a baby in Mommy’s tummy. It is quite another for him to understand that literally. I think he will even be fine right after the baby is born – but give it a few weeks.
I have never raised siblings together. True, I have a son and a daughter, but they are a little more than 15 years apart. Greta does not live at home right now, so Ezra does not even see her everyday. Greta will be more like an aunt to Ezra than a sister. This will be incredibly different for me. There will be a 4 year age difference. Ezra is an only child – for now. But he is also an only child of divorced parents. His dad and I live within five miles of each other and we split Ezra’s time almost equally between us. He spends two nights a week and every other weekend at his dad’s right now. Ezra’s dad is an engineer who manages the construction of hospitals, so he does have to travel for work and as the construction industry comes back, he will travel more and more, meaning Ezra will be at home more and more over time. For right now, though, Ezra is at our home part time. This new baby will be there full time – and Ezra will not. I am not sure how he will take this. I don’t know if he will feel usurped, but I am sure Jay is right – Ezra is gonna be pissed.
Jay and I started seeing each other again Halloween 2009. Jay and Ezra met in December ’09, just after Ezra turned 2. I was a bit nervous as I remember, but Jay told me he was pretty good with kids. This past Christmas when we were in Wetumpka at Jay’s parents’ house I was talking to his mother about Jay and Ezra and she told me Jay was a natural with kids. She is right. Pretty quickly Jay and Ezra started forming their own relationship, and they do well together. Every night Jay will ask Ezra what time it is and Ezra will say, “Bath time! Come on, Jay.” A few weeks ago I started to get up and bathe Ezra and he said, “No, Mommy, not you. You sit [on the couch] and watch news. Come on, Jay.” And so bath time is Jay and Ezra time. They also have their own made up games. Jay is the playful type, so a 3 year old is just right to play with and you will find them wrestling and shooting at each other (I now have proof that even if a little boy has never seen a toy gun, he will turn anything from a fork to fingers into one and start shooting). They will also snuggle up and lay around together watching TV. Man, they look comfortable – and a bit comical… Ezra is shorter (and probably weighs less) than one of Jay’s arms. From the night they met, Jay and Ezra seemed to have a mutual liking of each other and, while I am sure they get on each other’s nerves on occasion, they do very well together. As someone who has done this alone most of her parenting life (and has dated a good deal while raising a child), I know how rare that can be, and I am constantly thankful for the relationship they are forging.
As a single mom, you have to play both rolls. You are the enforcer and the empathizer. There is no dad to step in and say, “Listen to your mother!” in that deep voice, commanding instant obedience. The first time Jay used his, it scared Ezra to death. We were moving at the time and Ezra was right in our path while Jay and I were carrying a heavy piece of furniture. Ezra had been told to get out of the way – several times. Finally, Jay said, “MOVE!” in that man voice – and Ezra did. A few seconds later he started to scream. At first I thought Ezra had gotten hurt, but then I realized he was reacting to Jay. Jay felt really bad for scaring him, but I picked him up and, without sympathizing or petting, said, “Well, you have to listen when Mommy and Jay tell you to do something.” Later Jay had to chase him down during the move (2 year old, open doors while moving furniture – he was bound to make a run for it at least once) and when Jay caught Ezra, Jay walked him into the house, put him down in the living room and very sternly said, “You stay in here!” in that voice. While Ezra did cry again and eventually tested the boundaries a bit, he did not run off again. If he got too far off the porch, a simple look from Jay would send him high-tailing it back inside. The moral of the story: NEVER move while having to watch a 2 year old. The secondary moral: a man’s voice is usually powerful enough to make other forms of discipline unnecessary. (As an aside, I am so totally jealous of this and think it is incredibly unfair, but it works, so what can I say.) Anyway, that moving day set Jay up as an authority for Ezra and both of them understand this implicitly.
When it comes down to a battle of wills between the two of them, I know two things. One, Jay will win and, two, I will stay out of it. To date Jay has not spanked Ezra, which I find to be a testament to Jay’s incredible patience. Once a few months ago, this was sorely tested when Ezra (in one of his tempers) hit his plate that Jay was holding, sending food everywhere, including right into Jay’s face. Ezra realized he’d gone too far immediately, as evidenced by the look of horror on his face, and Jay jerked him up and took him to his room, but did not spank him. They ironed things out between them over about 30 minutes with Jay soothing his temper and giving Ezra a good talking to. Since then, Ezra has not come close to doing anything quite so disrespectful and in-your-face. I think the immediate fear of not really knowing what Jay was going to do was sufficient – at least for that incident.
Jay also had to step in when Ezra started pitching a fit instead of going to bed every night. Before this, I would say goodnight and Ezra would ask if I was going to clean the kitchen, I would say yes, give him night-night kisses and we were done. Then one night out of the blue he began screaming and latching on to me, begging me to stay. The first time I thought it was a one time thing and humored him. Then it became obvious that it was not. We went through about two weeks of this. When I would put him to bed, Ezra would scream and run after me when I would try and leave the room. After about an hour of me trying one night, Jay apparently figured I’d had enough – and he was right. Jay stepped in and took him back to bed where Ezra cried and begged for me, but to no avail. One thing Jay could do that I never could was very simple. In the middle of the screaming and crying, Jay would ask Ezra, “Are you going to cry?” to which Ezra would haughtily reply, “NO!” and Jay would then say, “Well, stop crying then,” and to my shock, Ezra would stop. I tried this once, and Ezra told me “YES!” It simply did not work when I did it. Dammit. Jay spent a full week taking Ezra from me and putting him back to bed and then waiting outside Ezra’s door for him to get out of bed (which he did), taking him back and doing it all over again. I think one night this little routine went on for at least 2 hours, before Ezra exhausted himself and passed out. Eventually, Ezra learned that if he did not stay in bed when I put him down, Jay would come in and make him. Finally it got to where Jay could just say, “Ezra, do you want me to come in there?” from the living room and that was all it took. Now, he is back to going to bed every night with no issue. Thank god… and Jay.
I realize that what I am writing about may seem second nature to parents who do this back and forth thing all the time. You have to understand that I have never had anything like this before. There was never anyone to step in or help out when Greta was a baby (her father and I separated when she was 11 months), so this co-parenting thing is really new and exciting to me. I have to share this little story. My friend told me once that her daughter, when she was having issues staying in bed every night, was told once by her dad that if heard another word out of her, he was going to come up and spank her. To which the daughter replied, “Daddy, when you come up to spank me, will you bring me a glass of water?” Anyway, never having had someone else in the house to help out in this way, I remember being a bit jealous when she told me this… after I stopped laughing, of course.
The first establishment of Jay’s authority with Ezra (beyond Jay just being another adult) happened during that move just shy of a year ago. Now it would not be unusual to hear Jay telling Ezra to “listen to your mother” or some version of that – and hear me doing the same with Jay. I think it is good that the three of us have had over a year together to establish our relationship, and I am bit nervous to see how a baby will affect that. I am happy to think that we already have a basic family unit formed and this baby will be coming into one, not creating one.
But still, Ezra is going to be pissed.