Saturday, January 30, 2010


"Some kids enter the world smoking a cigar and barking out orders!"

I read that in a book about 16 years ago. I can't remember the book or the author but it had something to do with raising a strong-willed child. I read quite a few books on that subject matter that year and for years after that. See, I had a strong-willed child - my first born. I found out I was pregnant about 1 hour after conception and immediately started wearing maternity clothes. 7 weeks into the pregnancy, my placenta partially detached and remained in that state for about 5 weeks. That was the first run-in I had with this child. Being pregnant for so long left me with little to do but eat. I gained 85 pounds and had legs and ankles the size of a giant cedar.

After about 40 months of gestation, he refused to enter the world in the typical manner and nurses had to twist and pull and I had to contort my body into all kinds of crazy assed positions. After 3 days of some ridiculous labor, he entered the world - smoking a cigar and barking out orders. He weighed only 5 1/2 pounds and my mom was certain he had shrunken head syndrome. But he was healthy and all was good. I sent the doctor back in to look for the other 80 pounds, but he swore I was not harboring any baby elephants and assured me the weight would come off.

We took him home and loved him - he was perfect! Except for that crying. And crying. And crying. And when he wasn't crying, he was eating. He didn't sleep. Refused to sleep. He wanted to eat and when he was done eating he wanted to cry. He couldn't have a normal bowel movement, instead he had a blow out EVERY time - which resulted in a full bath multiple times a day - for all of us and a shitload of laundry. Hell, one time we were holding him on the hood of the car (NO it was not moving) and he shit all over the car - ALL OVER THE CAR. At 3 months, we had to buy 12 oz bottles because 10 oz of formula every 3 hours wasn't enough for him. He got teeth when he was 3 months old and I had him eating Happy Meals at 4 months. And he cried.

At 4 months, he could sit up and it was then that he decided he would also pull himself up and attempt to stand. Not quite yet having the right control over his muscles, he feel frequently. I couldn't take him anywhere buy daycare during that time because he looked like we had beat the crap out of him on a daily basis. At 5 months he could cruise around furniture, so we were certain he would be an early walker. But he wasn't. Instead, he cried. We would hold a toy out for him and coax him to take those steps alone and he would stand there and cry. And cry. And cry some more. A few days after his 1st birthday he finally took those steps and cried with every one of them as he moved toward me.

And he never slept - did I mention that? When he was 2, he had mastered the art of manipulating me and we began what would become the epic battle of the wills. He could cry and throw a tantrum for hours upon end - seriously - 8 hours was the longest one I remember. He wouldn't stay in time-out, so I would have to put myself in time-out to avoid the urge to kill him. As I sat on the bathroom floor, bawling and praying for my horrible thoughts to leave my head, he stood outside the bathroom door - kicking it and hitting it and crying. I'd tell him to do something - he'd do the opposite. I tried reverse psychology on him, he was on to my game and still refused to comply with my pleas.

When he was 3, his dad took his training wheels off his bike at his request, and set out to teach his son to ride a bike. He was full of fatherly excitement and anticipation. He stood next to him and explained how to balance the bike and gave him a some other unnecessary instructions. The cigar-smoking, order-barking child demanded, "Let Go NOW" - and when his dad let go, that kid rode off on his bike - with no training wheels and no assistance at the age of 3. His dad's ego was obviously deflated.

We battled over everything. I bought things and put them in the house, he wrote his name on them with permanent marker. I bought a new car, he wrote his name in black marker on the seat where he sat. He wrote his name on the cabinet doors, the furnace registers, the light switches - it was ALL HIS. I'd wash his mouth out with soap, he'd tell me he loved the taste of soap and would ask for more. I'd put Tabasco on his tongue instead, he'd grab the bottle and chug it. I'd spank him and he'd laugh. I swore to God that if I beat him to a bloody pulp, that on his last dying breath he would get the last word in.

I never gave up on him - I was determined to stay with him and figure him out. He was a complete enigma to me. I read all those books on how to deal with him. I cried to everyone I knew - looking for advice. I hauled him in and out of therapy for a while. "He's broken! Fix him!" I'd follow the guidance step by step and word for word and get the exact opposite results. He was smarter than me. That was the problem. But I still stayed with him, loving him, trying to understand him and fix him and arguing with him every single day of our lives.

When he was a sophomore in high school, I suggested he take Debate. He looked at me like I was a moron and asked, "Why?" I don't know son - you seem to like to argue - I think you could be a good debater. He took it - but as usual, not wanting to admit that I might be right - he claimed he hated it and wasn't good at it. He's 17 now and I still don't understand him - but I love him and I stand next to him and support him. We don't argue every hour of every day anymore, but that's likely because I've just thrown in the towel. When we do argue, it's as ugly and loud as it always was. But then we hug and profess our love for one another.

The other day he walked in and announced, "I think I'll be a Lawyer"

At last - he made sense to me.

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