Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Scream: A Critical Mom's Guide

I often think of Edvard Munch and his many screamers:  they speak to me, as does the William Tell Mom, who like me tries to cram "Goodbye I love you have a great day at school" into "Don't forget to feed the guinea pigs and remember your orthodontist appointment at 3:00 p.m. and DON'T GET ON THAT DAMN COMPUTER BEFORE YOU'VE DONE YOUR CLARINET PRACTICE AND YOUR HOMEWORK!"
Maybe I should call it the "The Shriek: A Mom's Guide."
As in, when to shriek at your child and how he or she may best reap the benefits of shrieking.  Once upon a time, my son was having his eleventh birthday party and one guest--I'll call him Alvin--began to scream.  I ran outside where the guests had been playing football to witness two of them carrying a sobbing Alvin, who sounded as though he might need stitches, toward the house.  They deposited him on the stairs, offered that he'd been kicked accidentally, and went back out to play.  Alvin sat woebegonely sniffling and groaning in apparent agony.  I ran up with several ice packs and some antiseptic spray only to find the faintest of scratches and no swelling whatsoever.  In fact I couldn't get the kid to tell me where it hurt, but did surround the scratch with ice packs and offer to call his mother.  
"Yes, yes, call Mommy!"  he said.  He wanted to go home.  I phoned her, got his bag, wrapped a blanket around him, and kept his leg in ice packs, all the while worrying that her child had been injured at my child's party and I hoped it wasn't too bad.  His mother arrived--they lived at some distance and it took her a good forty minutes--and spoke with him cheerfully.  It turned out he wasn't going home.
"He just needed Mommy to come and kiss him," she said, glowing with the desire to be needed and to hop in the car for a long drive in order to kiss his knee and make it all better.
A year later, my son and Alvin were working on a school project together.  Each boy was responsible for four entries on an historic calendar, and my son complained that Alvin hadn't done any of his entries and now my son had to write them all because the teacher graded the group, not the individual in it.  In the mean time I'd heard a lot of Alvin stories:  "Mommy, Alvin has asthma and he's supposed to bring his inhaler to school, but anytime he hasn't done his homework or just doesn't feel like school, he wanders over to the secretary and says he's having an attack and they send him home."  Now my son was telling me that he'd sent an e-mail to Alvin and what did I think?  I read it:  
"Dear Alvin, I am very disappointed in you for not contributing to the calendar and now I have to do all the work and I don't want for you to be in my group anymore."  I told my son that the part about not being in his group was a bit too much like the "and you're not coming to my birthday party!" taunt of elementary school, and he should be beyond that by now, but neither of us felt prepared for the phone call that immediately followed his e-mail.
Alvin's mother sobbed into the phone:  "Alvin is totally exhausted!  What an unfriendly e-mail!"  In the background, Alvin was moaning and muttering that my son was "mean."
"Just a moment," I interrupted, "and I'll let Alvin speak to my son."  I heard my son on the phone, still apparently with Alvin's mother, saying, "I'm very sorry that I sent such an unfriendly e-mail, and in block letters, too.  Yes, Alvin and I can work together and I'm sorry I hurt his feelings."  Alvin could meanwhile still be heard whining for his Mommy and complaining about injustice.  When my son hung up, giggling, he said, "You know, Mommy, I used to think you were tough, but that kid is--"
"Now I can scream?" I said, and he nodded.


  1. You're gonna get a book out of these entries, Critical Mom. And I do love your son, too.

  2. Gee--a book on screaming? How I do it all the time and/or The History of and how it can be a Gerund and a Participle too . . .