The Jerk

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou


Today, yet again, I was jolted awake.

At 7:31 a.m. each week, Zion and I proceed with our weekly Sunday ritual.

Zion takes a running, flying leap onto my king size bed, doing a belly flop on top of me.

Granted, there is plenty of room in that bed for him to miss me.

But he never does.

He lands on top of me every time.




I guess I could get irritated.  Honestly, it really is a little annoying to wake up that way.

But it’s his greeting that makes it impossible to get upset with his Tigger-style alarm clock.

He waits for me to open my eyes, and then nose to nose he says, “Hi there, Mama.”

Only when he says “there,” he pronounces it “dare.”

So it sounds like “Hi dare, Mama.”

It is the cutest thing in the world to me.

He then proceeds to scootch over to his own spot, wiggling and squealing, and burrows a spot in the bed as though he is making his own little nest.  He wraps the goose-down comforter around his body, and buries his face in the pillow.

All I can see is his right eye.

He thinks that is hilarious.  He lays there giggling at himself for several minutes.

And then we just lay there together for about an hour.  He will say something every few minutes like “Mama make bacon and eggs?” or “Can I have the iPad?”

I tell him to wait a while longer, and he is quiet for a few more minutes. His sister Zoë is a tween now, so she sleeps until dang near 10.  So it’s just me and Zion.

It is the one time of the week that I cherish most with him, because life is peaceful.




The autism is not yet wreaking havoc in his body, and he is just my 10 year old, sweet boy.

But this morning was different.

This morning he laid there for a very long time without saying anything.

So long, in fact, that I fell back asleep for a few minutes.

I’m not sure how long I was out, but I woke up to Mister Zion breathing in my face.

When I opened my eyes he said “Mama angry.”

I looked at him, confused.

I said “No honey, mama’s not angry.”

Then he said the words that pierced me to my soul.  He said, “I am a jerk.”

I closed my eyes.

It would have hurt less if he would have stabbed me right in the heart…because do you know where he heard those words from?

He heard them from me.


And it was over something really, really petty.

I love candles.  I have about 100 of them.  But candles are like a game for Zion.  Whenever I light them, he is on a mission to blow them out.  He gets this bright twinkle in his eye, and starts singing happy birthday.

But it’s not a joyful sounding happy birthday.

It’s frightening.  It’s sounds more like something you would hear being sung in the middle of the shower scene in Psycho.

Whenever I hear that terrifying song start, I say “Zion, leave the candles alone.  Do NOT blow them out!”

It does no good.

He blows them out anyway.

It was cute and funny for years, but it is one of those things that has just become annoying in our house.

So yesterday, I hear him singing the demon birthday song in the back bathroom, and I think to myself to just let it go.

So I did.

About 20 minutes later, I go back to clean the bathroom, and there is candle wax all over the sink.

Without even thinking, I said out loud “Gawd, Zion!  You are such a jerk!”

But when I turned around he was standing right there.

He said “Mama angry.”

I said “Buddy, I’m not angry…but why can’t you just leave things alone?!

He didn’t say anything else.  He just kissed my arm and ran off to the media room.

But as I was ironing that wax off the sink, and then also off the bathroom rug, I wondered to myself if he had heard me.  And if he understood what I had said.

So to have my own words thrown back in my face during our Sunday morning ritual…that was just more than I could take.

I hugged him hard and told him how much I love him, and that he is not a jerk.  The truth is, he probably doesn’t even know what a jerk is.  All he knows is that he heard his mama call him one.

And it made me acutely aware of the impact of my words…even if the only impact is to teach me a lesson to watch what I say.

How often do we say things without even thinking of the meaning?  Or the impact they may have on someone else?

How often do we say things behind a person’s back that we would never, ever say to their face?

Because no matter how much I apologize, I cannot take that back.  And regardless of what I said, and even if Zion does not understand the meaning, he did understand that I was angry.  And he remembered how that made him feel… enough to bring it up first thing in the morning.

Consequently, the only jerk in this scenario isn’t Zion.

(Let’s watch what we say, not only to our kids, but to each other as well, eh?)


Steve Martin, star of The Jerk, 1979.







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