It was like being a referee at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Only uglier.
With my husband playing the role of General Custer and our preschool son starring as Sitting Bull, our home had become the scene of a four-star death match usually only viewable through Pay-Per-View for $49.95.
And I wasn’t the least bit happy about getting a free showing.
Only 4 years old but armed with the knowledge that he “knows everything about everything,” our son was confident it was OK to wear a green and white football jersey with navy blue shorts to school that day.
And boots. Dear God, I can’t forget the boots.
I quietly slipped into my son’s bedroom just as a T-shirt whipped over my head with an “I am NOT gonna wear that and you can’t make me!” hurled right after it. Apparently my husband was equally confident that one’s clothes should match.
At that point, my husband’s face was the color Custer’s probably was when Sitting Bull told him to stuff it.
And we know how well that worked out for Custer.
But history has taught us zilch. He continued to argue with the little guy about his clothes – right through breakfast, brushing his teeth and putting on his jacket.
And in the end, our son went to school with a green and white football jersey, navy blue shorts and snow boots and my husband was nothing but a beaten-down old man curled in the fetal position on the floor talking to himself.
And you know what? I really didn’t care.
I wasn’t playing the role of Custer that day. It’s my son’s clothes, right? It’s not like he wanted to take weapon-grade plutonium to school for show-and-tell. (Note to Big Brother out there: We DO NOT have said plutonium, so please don’t send the FBI to West Edwards Street. We only have the empty box. My mom shipped us a fruit cake inside it.)
And it’s not like he wanted to paint his hair purple or buy a Snuggie or any other socially questionable activity.
He’s just learning to form his personal style, I told my husband. So pick your battles, I advised him. Life will go a lot easier if you do it my way.
And you won’t be left blubbering in the corner in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Besides, our insurance policy doesn’t cover mental health treatment.
I walked off, smug in my knowledge of the universe and dealing with a 4-year-old who couldn’t possible beat me down as he’d just done to his own father.
Until it happened to me.
“You’re NEVER allowed in MY room AGAIN!” preceded the loud slamming of his bedroom door.
I slunk down the stairs in shame and walked in the kitchen.
My husband casually asked, “Trouble in paradise?”
I sighed and slid into a chair. “I tried to get him to change his clothes,” I said. “It’s Thanksgiving dinner. He should look nice. He should NOT be wearing a Transformers’ T-shirt, a pair of long johns and the sombrero we bought him in Cancun.”
“So letting him develop his personal sense of style was a crock, right?” he asked with more than a hint of an I-told-you-so smirk.
“I should have just walked away,” I said. “But, no. I stripped him down like a $3 Barbie doll and dressed him up real nice.”
“So what’s wrong with that?” my husband asked.
I whispered, “He cried. Big, fat crocodile tears. He was humiliated. Then he yelled at me to get out of his room, and I can’t blame him.” My bottom lip trembled, “I can’t believe I did that.”
As I collapsed into a quivering mess of guilt-ridden sobs, my husband walked upstairs to find our son once again dressed in his Transformers’ shirt and long johns. With the sombrero perched jauntily atop his little blonde head.
He was happy as a clam and raring to go, with no idea he’d just broken yet another member of the family.
Sitting Bull the Second.
With a sombrero.
God help us all.