Shopping at the hardware store a while back Brad and I somehow began talking with another couple. They had an adorable child in their cart, about a year, and they were calmly analyzing some purchase while the child played happily with a single toy. Brad and I were of course trying to take turns shopping while the other chased Joseph around and attempted to prevent him from causing serious damage. At some point in the conversation the father said something to the effect of, “yeah, she’s usually happy; it’s been pretty easy so far. I expected having a child to be a lot harder!” I really had no interest in talking to them any longer. This pretty much pissed me off. How could a thought like that even cross a parents mind??
I would never, ever refer to parenting as easy. It is wonderful and amazing and I am so happy to be able to be a parent, but it is not easy. Lately I have been starting to think that Joseph may actually be on the energetic, opinionated, and determined end of the spectrum. Not better or worse than any other child, just his own little guy, bringing with him some parenting challenges. I’ve probably made clear that J never had a particular talent for sleeping (he didn’t sleep through the night until 22 months, was at 1 nap a day by 11 months, has already stopping napping all together, and still comes into our bed at night). Yuck. He also has always seemed to me to have a strong drive and determination. Brad’s favorite story from Joseph’s birth is how J effectively swatted the suction thingy away several times. He started having full-out tantrums at nine months. He makes his needs known. His daycare provider has commented that “this is good because we wont ever have to worry about him letting someone push him around.” He has always worked extremely diligently at motor achievements (doing the commando crawl at six months, walking at 11 months, climbing everything, now jumping fearlessly, headstands and somersaults, riding his bike all over, etc . . .) From about 9 months he has clearly been drawn to older children and tries to do whatever they are doing. When he is disciplined he tries to give it right back to you (“no YOU need a timeout mommy!!). He has an idea and opinion about E-VER-Y thing (remember this list a while back?). He notices things and remembers things that I don’t even see or remember. He really seems to love people. He wants to be around someone all the time; he climbs all over me all day. When he wakes he needs lots of love right away; waking from nap he used to scream for ten to twenty minutes. Change is hard. If you move a picture he gets upset. If you try and take a different way home you will never hear the end of it. He still has not really accepted the idea of short-sleeves and shorts. He has about three outfits, of “long-sleeved shirts and long-sleeved pants” that are all he wants to wear. He insists on wearing his underwear backwards. After he has been screaming and crying for awhile he forgets what initially got him upset and starts freaking out because of the tears on his face. I could go on . . . and on . . . ;-)
This is the Joseph I know and love. These aspects of his personality are so amazing to me and they can also drive me crazy. Sometimes they make just finishing the simplest tasks seemingly impossible. Perhaps I also fostered this in him? Self-sufficiency and having your own ideas are things I value highly and I know I have encouraged this. But, sometimes it would be sooo much easier if he would just let me dress him . . .
Around J’s third birthday (this May) I started to think that he actually might be a child that can be more difficult than others to parent. As you probably know, I now work with children birth to five, and so I have spent a lot of time with other kiddos (I had pretty much no experience with youngsters prior to having my own). Very, very often at work I am just so shocked at how much other children sleep, infants that let you put them down, kids that accept change calmly and quietly, that don’t climb and jump and run all the time, etc . . . I recently purchased a book entitled, “Raising You Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic” I knew it was the book for me when I saw that it had a whole chapter about getting dressed (!!!!!!!!!!!). It has hit home in so many ways. The kids described seem so much my little guy and the parents like me. Sometimes it can feel very alienating when my experiences with Joseph don’t match those I hear from others; sometimes it can feel like I am not doing the right things. The book also has made me see that I am really all these things as well (well except for the energetic part) and sometimes this exacerbates the friction between Joseph and I. Plus, the book includes tons of very practical tips and ideas and fun stories. It is comforting. J and I go through phases and I think we are settling into three now. We are both learning a lot about ourselves. It’s a whole new world for me realizing that I am responsible for trying to help him become a GOOD person. When he was first born parenting was about making sure he was fed and clothed and loved, then it was about making sure he didn’t hurt himself or fall from too far; now I need to try to teach him to care for people and be kind. For me parenting has moments of bliss, love, elation, and fun and moments of exhaustion, frustration, doubt and fatigue. It is an extreme lesson in acceptance. It is learning to do your best, whatever that is, and let the rest go. And then help your child do the same.