Thursday, March 21, 2013

Swing Away


This is one of my darling children. He's the oldest. He's the sweetest (sorry, Joshua.) He's the weirdest. But I mean that in a good way. No, really. He's unlike any other child I've ever met.

Some days, that brings me great joy.

Some days, that brings me great angst.

We've been having a battle of wills over the past few months. Derek tests me far more often than Joshua does. He always has. When he was about three and realized that he could start making some decisions on his own, he started fighting me for control.

It's been a long decade.

I can remember when Dr. SmartyPants and I were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary, and we decided to hold a vow renewal service. I wore my wedding dress and we decided that all the boys would get matching tuxes, ohmygoshwon'tthatbesocute.

We were at the church, getting dressed and beautiful, when my monther-in-law came in.

"We have a little problem. Derek won't get dressed in his tux," she told me.

I went to the room where he and Joshua and Dr. SmartyPants were getting ready. Derek was sitting in his skivvies, refusing to budge.

"What's up, bud?" I asked.

"I'm not wearing that. I don't like those shoes. Those aren't my shoes."

"But these shoes go with the suit! It's okay that they aren't your shoes - we're just borrowing them for a little while. You never have to wear them again after tonight. And they match Daddy's and Joshua's!" I explained in my happy happy cheerleader voice.

"No. I don't like those shoes."

He had tears in his eyes, and his sweet little mouth was puckered up and his hands were clenched. It was very important to him to have some control over this outfit, I could see.

"How about you wear the suit, but you wear your own shoes? Would that work?" We were on a timeline, after all.

His eyes lit up. "I can do that?"

"Yes. If it is really important to you to wear your own shoes, that's fine. It's really important to me that you wear the suit."



It was, all in all, a fair compromise. I got what I wanted - two adorable little monkeys in their monkey suits. He got to wear his sneakers. (Please note, for the record, that Joshua is wearing the rental shoes.) I think you can see, in this picture, how he feels about the whole thing.

And so, nearly a decade later, it continues...I press - he pushes back. I insist...he digs in. I talk...he stares.

But sometimes - every now and again - we reach this place where it works for us both. He gets enough of his way and I get enough of mine that we can live together and not be angry all the time. In those moments, I believe we're going to make it. 

Honestly, when it's not completely infuriating, I find myself a little envious of his individuality. When I step back and look with dispassionate eyes, I wonder what I would have been able to do had I been so self-possessed at his age. It's taken me over 40 years to get to the point where I almost don't care what everyone else is doing and saying and wearing. If my mother had told me to put on the shoes, I wouldn't have even considered that there might have been other options.

He figured it out before he was four. He's still got it. 

And I hope that never changes.