I’ve been waiting for the day it would happen. In my mind, the day has evolved a number of different ways. It has been a happy moment in which my heart was filled with pride and joyful tears poured from my eyes. It has been a surprise, maybe born from frustration and impulsiveness in which my stomach sunk and I felt as though my heart had been pried from my chest. It has also been a last straw. When fury and defeat have conspired to make a decision that I never thought I’d make, to issue an ultimatum that would be met with the same hostility with which it was delivered. Never, in any of the times that I imagined this day, did I think it would come so soon. But, yesterday, at seven years of age (seven years and 345 days to be exact), The Oldest decided to move out.
It started as a typical Wednesday. Well, a typical Wednesday when school is out for the rest of the week for parent-teacher conferences and my kids are hanging out in their underwear enjoying the first lazy day they’ve had in months. Anyway…at about 10:30 The Oldest and The Middle decided that they’d like to play video games. The rules are: no video games on school days (damn it, they’ve got me on that one) and not until after noon (I still have some time to get what I want out of them). So, I told them that–and they’ve heard this before–if they want to play video games, they need to get their room clean. The first 5-10 minutes went fairly smoothly, minimal snide comments and arguing. Then The Oldest went into his wanting-to-control-the-world shit, and started yelling at The Middle for ridiculous shit, you know, like how he’s breathing (we’ve all been there, right?). The arguing escalated and The Oldest smacked The Middle on the head, The Middle started screaming and chaos ensued. I confronted The Oldest, told him that it isn’t up to him to control what other people do and that he isn’t allowed to hit people just because he gets pissed off. I said my bit and left the room for them to continue their cleaning.
Ten minutes later The Oldest comes out of the room dragging a blanket with a pile of clothes in the middle of it.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“I’m moving out”
“Oh.” (I mean really, how do you respond to your seven year-old dropping that kind of bombshell?).
He was having some trouble getting the corners of the blanket tied around the pile of clothes.
“Can you help me tie this?”
“No,” I was still a little shell-shocked at what was happening but I had the presence of mind to know that he was taking one of my favorite blankets, there’s no way in hell I’m gonna help.
“I can’t get the corners tied,” he yelled at me.
Well, that put me right back into my usual state of mind. “Maybe you should take less crap, then.” I told him as I walked out of the room.
One minute later I heard the front door slam shut. The pile of clothes were left where they lay and The Middle began crying that he was gonna miss The Oldest. I tried to assuage his grief. “But, you’ll have a room to yourself and you can have the top bunk.” It didn’t work. As I was in the garage, peeking out the window watching The Oldest pace back and forth between the neighbors on each side of us, I saw The Middle run out to the fence. After a brief fence-side chat, The Middle came marching into the house and announced that he was going with The Oldest. He grabbed a Slim-Jim out of the cupboard and walked out the door, leaving me wondering how the hell it had all come this far.
My two little runaways kicked around in the back yard for a while. I think they were discussing their options. The Middle came in at one point and asked if they could take The Baby with them. He wailed when I told him, “No!”
After about 15 minutes I decided to shut the game down. I packed The Baby into the car and backed out of the driveway. Suddenly they were at my window. “No, wait! I changed my mind,” they yelled, climbing into the car. I let them settle in and buckle their seatbelts. “Where are we going?” Excited smiles had replaced the angry scowls of thirty minutes before.
I smiled as I answered. “Next door.”
OK, I know it was kind of bitchy, but the rest of the day was a joyful, quiet one with no arguing or fighting.