The Challenging Child
Being the father of three boys, one becomes an expert in a lot of areas. Like where are the most likely places to find unexpected puddles of pee? How many times does the cat scream before it scratches someone? What does and doesn’t require stitches? Are Christmas ornaments digestible? After your second son reaches the age of four or five, you’ve pretty much got it covered.
Or so you thought.
With the first child, everything is new. You learn, you make mistakes, you overcompensate, you freak out over everything. You read every book, article and listen to all the bad advice that anyone and everyone is willing to give. You do ok, until they reach the teen years but thats another story.
The second child comes and you know what to expect in most areas. You probably have favorite brands of diapers and formula. You know what equipment is needed to make a trip to grandma’s, and you know how many stops it will take alone the way. The second child is what I like to call the set up.
You see with the first two children you and your wife have decided that you are somewhat experts on parenting. Everything that could be thrown at you has been, you know the secrets, you understand child psychology, and you have your game in order. You are such experts that you begin having conversations about how many kids you really want. Four, five, more? Heck lets become foster parents or adopt even more! There is nothing stopping the train of parenting that you are ready to unleash on the world.
Then it happens.
The third child emerges, the child you’ve heard about. The one that completely turns every thing you thought you knew about parenthood completely on its ear. This is the child that you’ve seen in the airport and stores that you assumed was just a product of crappy parenting. The one that you told yourself was out of control because it hadn’t been properly train. Who’s parents you looked sideways at and in that patronizing way said something like “looks like you’ve got a handful”. Yeah that kid, now its yours, or should I say now its mine.
We waited five years in between children, for various reason we just spaced them out that way. When we decided to have our third, it didn’t take long to become pregnant. The pregnancy went fairly well without any major complications, which was great because we did have some with our second child. So with a 10 year old and a 5 year old we were ready for the newborn.
Our third son was born in September of 2013, we had been in Arizona about six months so we had already had some life changing events. However nothing prepared us for what was coming. He was born, a beautiful blonde haired blue eyed bundle of joy. He rapidly turned into a blue eyed blonde haired ball of fury and flying spaghetti sauce!
In his first two years of life, he has given me at least two mild heart attacks a week. We didn’t have a human child we had a spider monkey with a bad attitude. There is no child safety device complicated enough, no counter high enough, no door lock strong enough to keep this kid in check. He climbs, he breaks, he destroys, he torments, he is… that kid.
His high pitched screams, tantrums, and anger issues have driven us into a life of seclusion, we no longer leave the house. Family events are now the older kids and one parent events, we dare not subject our other kids, ourselves, or society as a whole to the wrath of a two year old who no longer wants to participate.
We fear for babysitters, and we live in a constant fear of him doing serious harm to himself because of his curiosity and ability to overcome all security measures. We live our lives with a common mantra, keep him alive! He’s made some daring escapes, one including a trip down the street to play in the neighbors yard. Many tumbles and falls and injuries, all because he is the most determined, stubborn and intelligent kid I’ve been around in a long time.
He is simply a two foot ball of frustration, he’s committed to doing everything himself. There isn’t a task that he wants anyone to do for him, there isn’t anything he doesn’t believe he should do on his own. So as time has progressed, I have become ok with that. I can see he is simply developing into his own person, be it in a very different way than his brothers. I see what he is able to accomplish, and I try not to look at is as simple rebellion or bad behavior any longer, I try to see it for what it really is. A child wanting to grow, and learn and be self sufficient. As we progress through each new stage and the different challenges it brings, I see development, I see growth, and I see someone who cant be stopped.
While there are definitely places we as parents need to help round the edges, we must learn to accept that our children are going to be their own individual. We should want clones, and we cant expect perfection. So be happy with who they are becoming, and enjoy the ride. You’re not screwing it up.
As a dad I can tell you, we will make mistakes. We may miss opportunities, we will have things to regret. That’s ok, because no matter if its a challenging child or a child that occasionally challenges, our job is the same. Be there.
And keep em alive!