Sometimes I feel like I am the Thought Police.
Most moms I know want their children grow up with a sense of empathy, of understanding and compassion for other people. I know I am constantly badgering Rollie to be nice to his friends, to cheer them up when they're sad, and try to be considerate of everyone's feelings. Maybe I'm getting touchy-feely in my old age, or maybe I'm just gunning for Rollie to be voted Most Popular by his senior class (unlike me, who for some reason was voted Most Likely to Succeed...I think it was because our class was so small and all the good superlatives were taken...I would've killed for Best All Around, Most Talented, Class Clown. I would have even taken some of the lesser known ones: Shortest. Best Freckles. Most Likely To Marry A Guy Who Makes Beer For A Living....But Most Likely To Succeed? Seriously? If you say so, NFCS class of '95....). Either way, I would like it if he weren't a complete sociopath by the time he's in kindergarten.
He seems to have the whole empathy thing down. Except when it comes to Baby Els. Because lately he has been telling me that he doesn't like her.
I guess I need to look at Elsa from the perspective of a 3-year-old boy. Elsa can be annoying. She ruins puzzles. She breaks toys. She steps on the remote and changes Nick Jr. to ESPN with a mere flick of her big toe. Maddening, I tell you. She shrieks unintelligible phrases and demands gum and when she cries I instantly assume Rollie is the cause (which, 99.99999999% of the time, he is). She doesn't understand the basic rules of games like Duck, Duck, Goose and Memory. To her the world is one big bounce house filled with things that should be inserted into an orifice.
Rollie's time-outs are interminably longer, the expectations of his behavior are unreachably higher, and the decibel level I reach when yelling at him is significantly greater. Yet they have the same bedtime, eat the same foods, watch the same shows, and I think even have the same dad. It's no wonder Rollie was walking around telling me to keep Baby Els away from him because he didn't like her anymore.
I get it because I used to be the annoying little sister. The one who took things without asking, who tagged along, always underfoot and constantly looking for approval. My sister and I shared a room, a bed time, bathtime, clothes, cousins, our affinity for Little House On The Prairie and dislike of squash. I hung around my older sister like a sweat-scented fog, not because I wanted to be just like her, but because she fascinated me (and scared me a little...okay, a lot: She was one of those people who may or may not cut off all your hair in your sleep, so you try to sleep with one eye open to keep a lookout for a shadowy figure armed with a pair of scissors creeping across the room in the middle of the night).
So I do get the whole, you know...wishing your little sister would be kidnapped by a band of Grateful Dead followers. I'm sure that wish crossed Carrie's mind at least once when we were kids. I know this because of the book she wrote when we were little, entitled Stupid Bekah. I was the main character. The antagonist, if you will. I'm pretty sure I died at the end.
Still, every time Rollie says something to the effect that he wants Elsa to be destroyed, I feel compelled to brainwash him into thinking that not only is Elsa the coolest cat he's ever meet, but that he better love her more than he loves playing Wii while simultaneously eating peanut butter and having the bottoms of his feet scratched, or he will spend the next seven years in Time Out (and I'm talking Hard Time Out...not this cushy, lounge on the couch where he can still hear the television and see out the window into the backyard. This Time Out will be in the laundry room, lights out, the only sound the ominous gurgling of the water softener in his terrified little ears).
He has figured out how to express his dislike for Elsa eloquently enough so that I don't immediately banish him to darkened corners of the house. The best he can do is, "I don't want to be around her anymore."
Even though this sentence doesn't use any naughty words or even come close to crossing any verbal borders, and even though I know he doesn't mean it literally, I still bristle when he says it. I still leap in front of it like it's a speeding bullet aimed right for Baby Elsa's heart.
Me: Rollie, I don't like it when you say that.
Rollie: Well I don't.
Me: Why? Why don't you want to be around her anymore?
Rollie: I just don't like her.
Me: Rollie, that is a terrible thing to say. I don't understand why you're saying that.
Elsa wanders into the room just then, kicks a few of Rollie's matchbox cars out of her path, stoops to grab one and starts sucking on its front tires. Rollie just looks at her, not masking his disgust. It's an odd facial expression to see on a three-year-old, but it's definitely disgust I see emanating from those gray eyes. I've been on the receiving end of that look plenty of times.
Rollie: I don't want to sit next to her at dinner.
Me: You don't even sit next to her, you sit perpendicular to her.
Rollie: Well I don't want to sit purple-lick-you-la to her.
Me: She loves you very much, you know. She cries whenever you drop you off at school.
Rollie: Good. I like it when she cries.
Me: That's it. Go in time out.
As he flaps and flails his way over the to couch in the living room, I feel like I'm doing something horribly wrong. I feel like there is a much better way to handle it, but I'm too lazy to figure it out. Am I teaching Rollie that he can't tell me how he feels? Am I trying too hard to control how he thinks? Am I proving to him that he needs to start keeping things to himself, lest he wind up in time out? Will he resent Elsa even more? Will he chop off her hair in her sleep with a pair of safety scissors, or attempt to lobotomize her with his Handy Manny drill?
I guess I shouldn't worry too much quite yet. He is at that stage where he says a lot of things he doesn't really mean. Like right now he's also trying to tell me his favorite food in the whole world is a spaghetti sandwich. And I guarantee you that if I whipped up a mound of spaghetti between two pieces of bread and set it before him, he would look at me like I was f-ing out of my mind.
Besides, when he's in time out, Elsa likes to go to the couch where he's been banished and make him laugh. And even though she's usually the reason he's there, he can't seem to help himself when she starts her belly-chuckles.
And when I hear them both start cracking up, I feel like I've done something right.