We’re along the path in the woods. The creek is high, moving fast with with snow melt and mud. My son’s pace however, is glacial. He takes a step, finds a stick, then WACK! swats off the brittle brown seed heads along the way. For a while I only watch. The tassels of his knit hat swing with each chop. His face, pink cheeks and red nose, is scrunched up in hushed determination. With the hat, the green hooded sweat shirt and puddle boots, he’s a picture of unbridled youth. And for those few moments I’m filled with that enormous, purely unselfish joy that comes with watching my child do the simplest things.
What a wonderful moment I think, placing a hand to my heart, letting the fuzzy little scene etch its place into my memory.
One hour later...
A shitstorm. My kid wants chocolate and has no desire to earn it. The way he sees it he was born therefore it is his birthright. Now. No, now! He assumes the position. Flopping to the floor, his flailing is impeccable. His face, only moments ago a delicate arrangement of unblemished pale chub, is now barnhouse red, bunched up so tight that the tears have nowhere to go and pool in his tightly shut eyes. I try to help and he swats at me. When he receives the desired affect (my anger), he swats again. I walk away, into the other room, where I used to watch movies, sports, or nothing at all, because that’s what I’m supposed to do.
I've read up on this. I know to ignore it. Don't give in. Don't give him a reaction.
But a little voice says, Wait, isn't walking away a reaction?
Well-Read Voice: No. Do not show weakness. Don't second guess it. He'll see it and pounce!
Little Voice: Nonsense, he's a child. And where did you pick up that accent?
In my three years as a parent, I’m getting better. But it’s not about me. It’s about him.
He’s a good kid, really. He’s got some manners installed and we’re just turning the corner on that pesky potty training. Of course there’s going to be some miscues. Some fits. If there weren’t, well, I’d wonder whether he really is my child.
The main thing I’ve learned is patience. Like that walk in the woods the other day, we don’t just hop skip and jump from one place to another. Because when you’re only say, 1,100 days old, everything is still rather fresh. A stick can be a wondrous instrument. A soldering iron, a sword, a screwdriver, a pen or a fork. It can wack and prod, swing and draw.
Some things I’m doing well, others not so much. I read parenting articles and cringe at all I’m doing wrong. Sometimes I give in. I just throw in the towel and hand him that chocolate to avoid the whole kitchen floor thing. Then I worry that I’m creating a jerk. A trophy-getter. A brat. Like the other day I came home from lunch and my wife had told him no to a cookie. And what did I do but just walk in and unknowingly erase her hard fought battle. Although I gotta give him credit, the little bugger saw an opportunity (or a sucker) and went for it.
But mostly I’m doing things right. I guess. Who knows really? I know that much because he tells me how much fun we have when we’re together. He tells me that he loves his family. He gives me kisses when I get a boo-boo. So that’s something, right?
And besides, so what if we don’t do what everyone else is doing?
My kid eats fruit. He eats vegetables. Most of the time. He loves milk and water and I can proudly say he’s never had a Happy Meal in his life, (although he has developed that taste for chocolate). So what if he doesn’t like meat. Some people find that strange. I find it, well, fine.
He sleeps in his own bed. With Mom. Or me. Or both. That’s just where we are right now. People think that is strange. I’m okay with strange.
That's all I've got. Oh, and if you should start thinking to yourself in an accent, well, at least you'll be entertained.