A few years ago, my supportive mother assured me that growing up with McDiesel would shape his big brother Typ into a tolerant, sensitive, and patient person. Typ would wind up an all-around good citizen for having to suffer the often unpredictable, incomprehensible, and unprovoked storms of McD’s behavior.
McD’s behaviorist–tactfully–found this theory to be “very positive.”
There have been plenty of indications between then and now that convince me that indeed that is a “very positive” view. Recent indications include: “Why don’t you love me?” “Why won’t you do anything?” “How come he gets to…?” “But you said he couldn’t have dessert/play on your phone/have you read to him/get a prize…” One of my all-time favorites came this morning, right as we pulled into the school drop-off line: “Would it kill you to be a good mother and think about someone other than yourself and McDiesel??” Typ’s ultimate go-to, stab-me-in-the-heart line (which I am certain comes from a Disney Channel show) sums it all up: “This is why I hate my liiiife!” I fully realize all this wailing is melodramatic (thank you, Husband Number One) and manipulative. I know every parent has to listen to this stuff in one form or another. The thing that gets me, though, is that Typ is usually right when he comes at me howling this stuff. It seems unfair because it is unfair. As the “typical” kid and the good boy whom I count on to be typical and good, he does have to put up with McD’s behavior without feeling there’s satisfactory repercussion.
I try to reason with Typ, to explain, to make him feel included in our strategies for managing McDiesel and all that behavior. It sounds so flimsy. Indeed, everything is so flimsy up against that behavior storm front. Even extra helpings of ice cream and trips to the bookstore for more Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, How to Train Your Dragon, Big Nate.
But with the release last week of the first volume of Typ’s graphic trilogy “The Jerks,” I’m feeling much better about his well-being. In the first frame, the protagonist’s mother (whoever she is) is serving the protagonist (an eight-year-old boy) dinner (could it be a plate of the pasta Typ specially requested that night and then refused—melodramatically—to eat?). She says: “Eat my barf.” (So tempting as a post title.) Each frame features the protagonist’s parents being mean (they tell the hero they hate him), doing gross things (another four-letter F word, represented as strategically placed gaseous clouds), and being put in jail (don’t they know their eight-year-old can turn into Owl Man??). They even become the President (joint appointment?), but nobody follows their laws (which are all about being mean) and they land in jail some more.
McD—okay, this was predictable—did not appreciate being one of the eponymous Jerks and so has since been recast as Wonder Boy (at least, he thinks so).
Typ requested that I make photocopies next week so he can distribute his comics to his eager third-grade readership.
For all my troubles, my cooking is insulted and I am portrayed as emitting noxious gasses. There is hope, after all! Typ may not wind up tolerant, sensitive, patient, or a good citizen for having had to grow up with McDiesel. But maybe he can land a “Jerks” movie deal?
I tell him how proud I am of his creative expression of his anger. How “The Jerks” is such a healthy and productive outlet for his emotions. He’s working on another book at the kitchen table and doesn’t even bother to look up. “What? It’s about revenge, Mom.”