Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wallflower no more

I have a colleague at work who also has a nearly-three year old son. The kids met at a summer get-to-know-each-other departmental party for what I called "the underclass" (i.e. the untenured, the folks still on one-year-contracts, etc.) at our house, where we discovered that our kids were both, miraculously, followers of sorts. Each stayed in his respective dad's arms, eying the other with a mixture of curiosity and concern, waiting to see what the other would do. This lasted until a 4-year-old boy showed up and took charge, turning the two 2-year-olds into versions of tie-fighters flying in formation around him.

The other day during my evening class' break, I found this colleague in his office with no students. We exchanged pleasantries and at some point I asked him about N, his son. "Oh man," he said, "I have no idea what to do. I have to get him ready every morning and he just throws this ridiculous fit. It happens every morning. And I don't know what to do."


And at this point I turned into Dear Abby, offering advice on how to traumatize your child into submission so you can get his pants on. I have to say that it still works: the other day he was resistant and I calmly said, "Would you like me to bring you outside with no clothes on?" He looked at me and said, "No, I put on my pants now."

Here's the sadistic part: I can't wait to hear how N will take to the smackdown. Bwahaha: tormented fathers of the world, unite!


I haven't written much lately for a few reasons. Primarily, it's because I fell behind in my writing and other work due to some illnesses (both mine and Xan's) that set things back a bit. (Indeed, my last posting notes the beginning of this spiral.) But the revisions are close to being done indeed, and the Oscars are actually happening no matter what (hooray!) so I just have to KEEP ON GOING. Come mid-March, I may actually be caught up with all the writing, which would be novel.

One of the interesting by-products of the creeping crud that invaded our house a couple weeks ago was that Xan suddenly turned into Mr. Obstinate. He would yell all day at us, "No! You to do that. No, no, don't say that!" Very insisting, very forceful, refusing to be nice for any reason whatsoever. (Apparently, something invaded many little boys around this time, since I wasn't alone in wondering what the heck happened to my sweet little child.) Within a week, he returned to a version of his normal self, but one day I lingered at his school and watched an interaction with his classmates. He sat down at a table doing some crafty thing and got up to move a chair for some unknown reason. As he was doing this, the girl next to him grabbed all of his craft material to put on her tray. Xan returned, discovered his stuff was gone and started to throw a minor fit. "Give me my stuff back!" he started yelling at the girl.

I was talking to one of the teachers and my first response was to stop him, but before I even said anything, the teacher turned to me and said, "Let's see how this plays out." The girl ran off with his stuff and he chased her, managing to get some of it back but not all. The teacher -- who saw more than I did -- eventually stopped the two of them and actually berated the girl: "Did you take his stuff when he wasn't looking?" "Yes," she said. "Well, you need to give it back. You don't like it when someone does that to you, do you?" She did, Xan was happy and all was well." The teacher turned back to me. "I think that went well," she said."

"I'm impressed," I said. "I was just going to say that he's been pretty willful this last week and was concerned that he was transferring back to school."

The teacher looked at me. "Well, you know, it's been a goal of ours to actually get him to stick up for himself."

And at that point she fleshes out the details that she mentioned in our parent-teacher conference but that I had forgotten: indeed, when he first arrived at school (at only 2 1/2, the very youngest there), he had been a doormat. A kid would take his toy and, in his relatively good-natured way, he would shrug and find something else to play with. The teachers had apparently been concerned that he wasn't asserting himself enough. Lo and behold, this may have been part of the reason he got snippy with us: testing the waters to see whether he could also rule over us.

Today, however, more news, and this actually worries me slightly: when she picked him up today, Angela got word from the teacher that Xan is now teasing the other kids.

As someone who has all sorts of traumatic memories of elementary school, I almost couldn't fathom that this was happening. Apparently, it makes sense: the other kids did it to him and now he's trying on that particular hat for himself. Tomorrow, when I bring him in (provided we don't have a snow day), I'm planning on asking if there's anything we can do at home.


KC said...

Good for Xan, sticking up for himself against evil.

Willfulness, though, I think is part of the age. Or at least I hope Jolie is not always such a turd.

Cold Spaghetti said...

Hang in there. I didn't quite believe it when other parents told me that the terrible twos were sort of a joke... that really, it was the terrible 3s and 4s. But goodness, those words rang true.

For all that extra time you have to read (right) "Raising Your Spirited Child" was a help to us. Lots of ideas for the how-to-put-pants-on negotiations, etc.