Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The adventure of raising Dylan

When Dylan was scarcely more than an infant, I remember telling my mom how deliciously easy he was. I also remember following that up with some statement about how I was pretty sure that what made him really easy then was going to make him a lot harder in the long run.

Self-contained. Immovable. Very aware of what he wants. Independent. All of these things made him a ridiculously easy baby and toddler-he was so easily contented, because he knew what he wanted, it caused no harm and so he got to do it. He required very little of my attention to be happy, but was always happy about it when I wanted to give him attention.

Self-contained. Immovable. Very aware of what he wants (and what he doesn't). Stubbornly independent. These things make him a defiant, whiny challenge at 4 1/2.

Last night we were at Katy's to take the kids for a swim. After 2 years of insane, don't-you-dare-touch-me-or-take-me-into-the-deep-end attitude, we just threw him in. No amount of bribing, punishing, threats, or even ridicule would get him to even try to get away from the safety of the step. Once he leaves that step, he's no longer in control, and he can't hardly stand it. After forced movement into deeper waters and a heck of a lot of panicked screaming (Me: Dylan, if you can scream that much, you can breathe just fine), he will finally hold onto one arm and stretch his body out and kick. When we first got in and I started trying to convince him to come to me, he simply responded (without a hint of shame or resignation): "I'm a wimp." I replied, "Dylan, even Kylie will jump in. Look, she's not scared at all." His response? "I don't want to be big and brave. I'm a wimp." Well, little man, at least you own it.

Tonight, as I watched Kylie inhale her rosemary salmon so fast I started to wonder if I'd put it on her plate at all (and then she asked for seconds), and listened to my girls happily chat while they dipped their steamed asparagus in spicy mustard, I had to sigh as I looked across the table at Dylan, staring angrily at the untouched plateful of food in front of him. Finally, by feeding him bite by bite like a baby (with a promise of lemonade if he'd only cooperate), I was able to get a small portion of fish and half a sprig of asparagus in him, with minimal gagging.

I have often said that Doug and I rarely disagree or argue, but when we do its ugly, because it is much like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, so great are our respective stubbornesses and sureness that we are right. Apparently, Dylan got a healthy helping of stubbornness from both gene pools, but missed out on all the cooperative and people-pleasing tendencies we have in there somewhere.

Oh, but then he comes up with some quirky thing (a la, the wooden Melissa and Doug train turned upside down to become the Monster's Inc conveyer belts), and I fall in love with him all over again. And as I watch other children his age copying everything they see from (not always wholesome) TV or the older folk around them, I am grateful all over again for his incredible independence of mind. If we help him along correctly, it should serve him well.

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