Headstrong: My Spirited Son

The contractions started around 6 a.m. and my son was born at 8:08 a.m. My ten pound baby boy burst into the world without giving my body time to adjust. And that is how he has lived every day since then.

Some books would label him “spirited” or “strong-willed.” Insurance companies would label him “a liability.”

He is confident. He is sure of himself. He is pushing me to my breaking point.

My son is four-years-old, and for the last two years his mother and I have wondered aloud if we have done something wrong. For instance, potty training.

There are lots of theories and methods and advice columns about the subject. The one we subscribed to assured us that children will stop wearing diapers when they are ready. We weren’t going to rush it. We weren’t going to make a big deal out of it if he was still uninterested by the time most kids had it down. And that is, like, what? Three years old?

He is slated to start preschool next week, albeit six months late because of COVID-19, and sometimes he chooses to wear underwear. Other days he wants a Pull Up and if we resist he will simply pee on the floor as if on strike. We have tried it all; charts, stickers, prizes, bribery, praise, and nonchalance.

My son makes those rules and it gets messy if we try to nudge him in any direction that isn’t his idea.

We are all about natural consequences. So if he wets his pants, he has to clean the mess and change himself, which he will do several times a day. Turns out he is really the nonchalant one in the family while we are trying home remedies to remove the stink from our carpets and furnishings.

Speaking of natural consequences . . .

He often refuses to wear pants or socks. Not a big deal at home, of course, and while he keeps his pants on in public, he is often bare toed and shoe-less most of the day. This wasn’t a big deal to us at all until a recent snowstorm.

He ran out of the house and down our driveway. I’m sure one day he will be the first one in the water at one of those fundraising Polar Plunge events because he enjoys the shock of cold and usually he will turn around and go back into the house and dive under a blanket.

But this day he kept going.

He ran down the driveway. And then down the block. And then crossed a street and ran down the next block. He had no shoes on, no jacket, no hat. He was dressed in a t-shirt and sweatpants. And he was completely unfettered by his mother’s frantic, breathless screams as she ran after him and begged him to stop and come back. A neighbor saw him and he was so spooked that he turned around and sprinted home.

I held him and cried. Through sobs I told him that I was so worried he was going to get hurt. I told him that he scared me. I told him that I love him but I am not sure how to be his mama.

My baby boy. He is unshakeable in his convictions, misdirected as they may be.

The first time I tried to home school him he told me that if “school” meant learning his ABCs, he would quit.

When I ask him to stop throwing pillows down the stairs he will laugh, look at me, and toss another one into the basement.

There are times when he is so caught up in running and playing that I have to grab him and hold on tight, securing his arms and legs with mine and wait until he calms down so he can hear me tell him something easy, like that dinner is ready.

He isn’t prone to tantrums (anymore) but this boy is so full of free-will that guiding him in any sort of way involves complex mental gymnastics and reverse psychology; and even that only works about half the time.

My precious boy isn’t a bad kid. He’s . . . spirited and strong-willed, I guess.

He’s not a fighter unless it’s with his older brother and although I’m an only child, I’m guessing that’s normal. He is charming and sweet and loves to cuddle. He is wicked smart and his imagination impresses me every single day.

I write this for you, son, because I need some hope and maybe some direction.

If you have successfully raised one of these amazing creatures I need to hear about it. I would love to read stories of precocious children growing up to be fine humans rather than sociopaths.

Please, share your tales in the comments below and let this Mama know that she is doing something right by loving her boy exactly where he is at . . . as long as it isn’t two blocks away during a blizzard.



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