If they were ugly and had fangs, we’d just throw them outside, shut the door, and lock it. Problem solved!
“God made them cute so we won’t kill them.”
This is what my husband would say when our children were small – when we were at our wits end – which we were at a considerable amount of the time.
“If they were ugly and had fangs, we’d just throw them outside, shut the door, and lock it. Problem solved!”
He’s probably right.
If you had a dog that:
- kept you awake for 5 hours every night (broken up into 20 minute intervals with approximately 15 minutes of sleep in between)…
- spit up sour milk on literally every single thing you own (especially all your sweaters that can only be dry cleaned) and all of your furniture…
- and had a soul-piercing cry (that might have been appropriate were one being torn apart by wolves, but seemed somewhat excessive for one who was being comforted at the bosom of his mother) which it exercised for more hours of the day than it was silent…
you would give it up for adoption – or have it put to sleep.
But God knew what He was doing, and He made them cute. He hid their fangs behind their precious little elfin faces.
You don’t have to dig deep to see the evolutionary sense in this.
Although, you would think that it would ALSO have made evolutionary sense for babies to be sweet-tempered and EASY (in addition to being cute).
Because I suspect that if you were to rifle back through the ages, you would find that the really tough, fussy babies “accidentally” got eaten by wolves, or fell into the deep end of the pond, with somewhat greater frequency than their sweeter more docile counterparts.
I can only surmise that the genes for “difficult and fussy” aren’t inheritable. (Neither my husband or I was a fussy or difficult baby, afterall.)
It seems to be more of a “luck of the draw,” kind of a deal. Some people get easy kids. Some people get hard kids. You get what you get, so don’t get upset!
And the people who think there’s no such thing as “difficult kids” don’t have one.
They have easy kids. And they have a laughable (and unattractive) tendency to believe that the flexible amenable nature of their child is the direct result of their excellent parenting. Which, of course, also translates to: difficult inflexible children must have shitty parents. (They are wrong, of course.)
For these parents, everything just seems to come easily and go smoothly. “No, she never cries! I was sleeping 8 hours a night one week after she was born!”
Well, lucky you. If you have one of those easy kids, you should shut up about it. Seriously. No one wants to hear it. NO ONE. (Not even other parents with easy kids.) For instance, I do not want to know that Barney loves all vegetables, in fact, he even asks for vegetable – giggle, giggle…
And you should learn to read body language, because everyone in the room wants to throw large rocks at you.
We all thought we’d get kids like that. You know, easy kids.
But, who knows what happened – our orders got mucked up somehow, and that is not what we got.
What we got will let the half chewed broccoli fall out of its open mouth onto its plate with a look of horror etched across its face. My husband and I look at each other across the table. He gives an uncertain shrug. “Well… I don’t know,” he says helplessly. “I mean, I think he was going to throw up…”
Do you know what I think? I think someone needs to not eat for, oh, say… 12 hours, and then see how they feel about the regurgitated broccoli on their plate. (Not that I would do that – but I won’t say it hasn’t crossed my mind during some of my more strained parenting moments.)
And even as I say this I know that’s not it. This isn’t pickiness. My husband was right. I saw the slight gag. He was going to throw up. Why? Who the fuck knows. Probably for the same crazy reason I also have to layer his 15 blankets on top of him at night in the correct order!
For whatever reason, this child is more sensitive to life.
He feels its barbs more acutely, as if he is missing some layer of protection – a layer of protection that is supposed to cushion one from life, soften the impact of each experience, make bitter tastes less bitter, make clothing seams less scratchy, make bee stings hurt less, and makes changes in plans less unsettling.
I suspect that this greater sensitivity results in a greater need to control his environment.
This child expects life to hurt more (because it does), and so he tries to shield himself from small hurts by attempting to control how things will go.
Ultimately, this means he is less flexible. He need things to go the way he needs and expects them to go, and no, he cannot be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. He likes his world to be predictable. And because of this, he plans more and thinks through how he wants things to go, so he heads into every experience with more pre-set expectations than more carefree flexible kids.
Like, when we went to Great America, he had planned to get two pretzels – one to eat there and one to eat at home (because he really likes pretzels), so when the pretzel stand was closed, his plan fell apart, and his dreams of extended preztel-gratification were dashed against life’s cruel shores.
Who plans ahead for shit like that???
People who have been giving the matter a lot of thought, that’s who.
But here’s the thing… when I have responded to his inflexibility, not with aggravation, but with curiosity, I have learned some interesting things. It turns out that there are reasons (at least half the time) behind what appears to be perversity.
He will only sit in this car seat!
Why? Because he felt sick one time when he sat in the other one.
No, he will not wear the new shirt that Nana bought him.
Why? Because it looks like another shirt he has that is scratchy, and he thinks this one will be scratchy too.
He absolutely needs to sit on this side of the car, always!
Why? Because he wants to see the firetrucks when we drive past the fire station, and he can see better from this side.
He doesn’t like this ice cream store.
Why? Because one time his fingers got pinched in the door, so we should go to the other ice cream place.
These reasons were not obvious, though. He didn’t scream and shout, “I need to sit on this side because I want to see the fire trucks!” He just obstinately, pig-headedly refused to ever let his sister have a turn on that side. And because he had dug his heels in about it, she (of course) really wanted to sit on that side – convinced it must be better and certain she must be missing out on something momentous.
I had to dig to discover the reason behind his pig-headedness. (But now I know that there usually are reasons, so now, I dig.)
And when I understand the “why” behind some of his inflexibilities, sometimes I can help to navigate him to a more flexible place.
“Let’s let Polly have a turn on that side, and when we get to the fire station, I am going to stop the car, and you can get out and have a really good look at the fire trucks.”
And what do you know… yes, that would be just fine. (And now Polly knows that this side of the car is just as exciting as her normal side!)
I am 100% certain that this is not what I signed up for. I didn’t put my name on the list for Exceptionally Difficult Children. But it’s what I got. And I’m trying to make the best of it.
And, while I am not (generally speaking) a vindictive sort of a person, I will confess that there is nothing, nothing, so satisfying as watching a self-righteous adult who “certainly would not tolerate that kind of behavior in their own child” be blessed with a difficult child of their very own – to have and hold for all their days.