When he's angry he lashes out. He might only be four but his slap packs a sting that smarts (both skin and heart).
I'm doing the dishes. He's left solo at the table, smearing meat loaf around his plate, eyeing Zander and his ice cream cone in the living room. "But I don't wike it!" He scrapes back his chair and stomps over to me. "I want dessert wight NOW!" Arms crossed over his chest. Angry tears welling.
"If you don't eat your supper, you don't get dessert." I'm tired of the daily repetition.
He slams one foot down on the linoleum. The rooster platter on the bakers rack rattles against the wall. "WHAAAAAYYYYYYYYY??!! You're so MEAN!!!!!!" And he winds back, teeth clenched, growl building, eyes sparking and lands an angry open palm on my lower back.
I stiffen, hands still in the dishwater. I am calm. "Liam," I say, turning my head slowly to face his so-what-you-gonna-do-about-it expression. "The next time you hit me, you're going to clean the toilet."
He scoffs. "Yeah, wight." And he stalks off.
Thirty minutes pass.
I turn off an episode of Johnny Test because it's distracting the boys from getting into their pajamas. Liam's shoulders come up to his ears - or maybe his ears sink down to his shoulders...he looks up at me - the whites of his eyes flashing in what he's sure is righteous anger. He snarls through his teeth. "Mooooom-meeeeeeeeee." The crescendo of his mommy-growl is bordering on being animalistic and if he was more than three feet tall it might have been scary. "Dat's not FAIR!!!!!" I see it building. The decision being weighed. The angel on his right shoulder (me) saying, "Don't do it. It's not worth it." The devil on his left shoulder (Darth Vader) saying, "Go ahead, she's earned it." Vader wins. This time he catches me in the stomach.
He fights me as I lead him to the bathroom. He fights me as I put a disinfecting wipe in his hand. He fights he as I direct him. Lid. Tank. Inside of lid. Seat. Bottom of seat. Rim. He's too angry to cry. He fights me when I tell him he has to wash his hands.
He's finally calm when it's all over.
"Do you have anything to say to me, Liam?" I ask him.
He looks at the floor. "Sowwy, Mommy."
"Why are you sorry?"
"Sowwy I hit you."
"Are you going to hit me again?"
He shakes his head.
"Do you love me?"
He shrugs but a little half grin knocks Darth Vader right off his offending shoulder.
"How much do you love me, Liam?"
The half grin breaks into a full one and I'm amazed at how beautiful he is when his heart is shinning through his eyes. "Two hundred and eighty-four," he tells me as if I should have already known that. And off he runs to put on his pajamas in the hope that I will let him finish what is left of the cartoon.