A Battle of Wills: Surviving my Stubborn Child
He is the perfect paradox. The best and worst of my husband and I – all rolled into one. He is smart, funny, and so charmingly sweet. But my god, he is stubborn as hell.
I loved this little boy well before I ever met him. To my husband’s dismay, we tried tirelessly to get pregnant – and when he was finally born, my heart burst into a million pieces. Yes, God was preparing me with patience and blinding me with beauty for the utmost willful, persistent child that he intended to throw my way.
Now, my little boy has eased into his role as Supreme Dictator Of-All-Things. I can’t quite exactly pinpoint the day, but one morning – around age two – I swear he woke up a completely different child. And Terrible Two was only the beginning. He gained power that year – learning new vocabulary and techniques of persuasion. He studied us like subjects, praying on our every weakness. We barely survived the Treacherous Threes. In fact, I am surely coming out of it with less of my sanity and wit. And I tell you, four isn’t looking too promising.
Having a “spirited child” is filled with obstacles and battles that I’ve never had to face with my other children. He is exhausting in every way imaginable – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I never know who I’ll be waking up to that morning – My sweet little boy or the one who flings open my door at 7 a.m. – miserable, yelling, and stomping his feet because how dare his brother wake up before him! This is par the course with any toddler I suppose. It’s just so so so much more. It’s…
Trying foods? Not mine. Not on his plate. Not one lick. Not one bite. His menu consists of about five items on continuous rotation.
Brushing teeth? Turns into the debate of the century with this kid – we argue over who brushes first and the acceptable toothbrush and flavor of toothpaste to use that morning. There have been times that I have had to drag his body, kicking and screaming, into the bathroom. Luckily, he’s still small enough to sling over my shoulder. Have you ever tried holding a flailing child while brushing their 20 tiny baby teeth? There’s no need for an exercise regimen around here.
And I know what you’re thinking – try bribery… “If you brush your teeth then you’ll get x, y, z”. – That never works. Consequences? Trust me. I’ve tried everything.
- Positive reinforcement.
- Sticker charts.
- Special treats.
- Ignoring the behavior.
- Being firm. Being calm. Being firm while staying calm while drinking wine.
- Losing privileges.
- Time out.
On the battle field, none of that bothers this child. His favorite seat in the house is the time out chair. If I take away his toys, he thinks I’m his entertainment. Stickers and candy hold no weight or bearing. He’s had the art of reverse psychology mastered for quite some time now.
And if you don’t believe me – Well… then you’ve never had a strong-minded child like mine. He is remarkably unphased by it all. I’m pretty sure I’ve googled information about psychopaths just as a precautionary.
He is Mr. Do-It-Himself to a fault and will repeat himself 100 times like a broken record until he is heard. He has to learn through experience. He needs to spill the juice. Make a mess. Get soaking wet. Change his clothes. Wipe it all up. And try again.
I worry about him. As his mother, I’ll love him each and every day despite it all. But I worry about him fitting in. Will he be able to make and keep relationships with friends? With girlfriends? Or will his head strong personality lead to loneliness? There are times we go to the playground and I see the carefree joy on the other children’s faces while they play. I look down at my child – who is pouting on the bench because I put on his blue shoes instead of the red ones – and I wonder if he will EVER go with the flow in life.
On the other hand of my worry, lies reassurance. There’s an upside to having a child so strong and spirited. I know I will never have to worry about peer pressure – he’s a born leader. I know he will never settle for failure – success, determination, and independence are coded in his DNA.
But for the time being, these blessed days of childhood are long and draining. I pray for the moment he finally falls asleep at night so I can get some peace and quiet. The day has finally broken me. But I survived (we survived). I wave my white flag in solace and head to take my own timeout. I find myself sitting in the dark – staring into oblivion as I wait for my batteries to recharge. I take a deep breath and muster up enough energy to scrape my ass off of the sofa and head to bed.
And just as I pass his bedroom door, I decide to peak in. There he is. I can hear his tiny snores sneaking past those chubby little cheeks and, for a moment, his sweet innocence overtakes me. He is mine – perfect and adorable. Despite my exhaustion – and perhaps delirium – I realize I wouldn’t change a single thing about him.