I watch him. He watches me. I am open mouthed. Transfixed.
“Mmmmmm.” He nods as he bites deeply into the fruit. He sucks greedily at the flesh. “Mmm-mmm. I love this. I really love this, Daddy.” He says, his eyes never leaving mine.
I know exactly what he’s doing. I know what his endgame is. He wants to break my mind. Turn me into a pliable servant. I hold the line between my children and everything they want but shouldn’t have. His end game is to break my mind, make me a hollow parent-zombie willing to dispense biscuits and cake at his whim.
These days it’s called Gaslighting. The use of confusion and misdirection to convince someone that they are delusional, that they cannot trust their senses, in order to control and dominate them.
My son and I are engaged in this struggle. No one else believes it’s happening. But I know it’s real. And I suspect it’s a struggle that will last for the rest of my life. I know I can never win. That’s impossible. I equally know that I cannot let him win. That would mean I lose all authority, and my mind.
I’ve written before about my utter failure to prevent my son from becoming a picky eater. One of his nicknames is “the surgeon”, for his boundless patience when removing the things he doesn’t like from any meal. The beans from baked beans. The spag from the bol. He’s never been very keen on citrus fruit either.
“He’s trying to drive me mad.” I hiss at mummy.
“Don’t be silly.” She laughs. “He likes it.”
My son grins at me as the bitter juice runs down his chin. “Mmm. This is really yummy.” he says. To my ears his voice is dripping with sarcasm.
“But mummy…” I whisper, mouthing my words exaggeratedly, unable to believe that she can’t see what’s happening, my voice squeaking with desperation now. “It’s… a lemon.”
My son giggles at me malevolently.