Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Remarkable Changing Boy

I remember dragging my little family to a reunion (Dad's side) up north a year ago. It was a simple one, held at state park beach I had swam at lots in my childhood. After I had introduced eight-month-old Ben to all my old relatives, the general consensus was, "Cheryl, what a good-natured boy you have!"

I know now that what of the reasons that label was provided for my son was because of another baby, born a year earlier, who was never as "good-natured" and was really kind of difficult at times (read spoiled).

But for the most part, it's been true. Ben is a sweetheart. He's not afraid of new situations, new people. He's never had stranger anxiety except for that one time when the creepy guy at Wendy's talked to us too much. Ben is usually content to just sit back and watch everyone around him with a slightly amused expression on his face (rather like mommy).

So where the hell did this kid come from? Not the nice boy, but this creature he's become. My mantra for the past two weeks has been, "It's just a phase." "Things will be different when I'm home with him all the time." But really, toddlerhood is wonderful and delightful, but some parts of it can really suck. Hard.

Ben is exercising his new-found ability to throw temper tantrums and meltdowns when he doesn't get his way. Under no circumstances do we give in, but it hasn't dampened his seeming enthusiasm with the process. So the world comes to an end almost every single time we have to take a toy away from him for one reason or another, no matter how lovely and wonderful the replacement toy is.

Another characteristic of this phase is his unhappiness with pretty much anything that happens. We leave to go to the store, meltdown. He has to hold our hand to walk from the car, tantrum. I don't let him kick or hit me while I push the cart, panic attack. AND... and this is the part that leaves me in tears, too, he freaks out when we leave him at daycare.

I'm a reasonably intelligent young lady, and I know that his issues are control and power issues. I also know that our lives are transitioning toward many changes (SAHM-hood, new baby). And though his life hasn't really altered much yet, he can sense that things are in upheaval. So he's acting out, trying to exert some control over the situation that is his life.

My husband and I keep reminding each other that we know we're not raising a spoiled child. That was one of our main determinations when we first talked about parenthood. Ben doesn't get what he wants all the time. We offer compromises. We never walk down the toy aisle at a store. We teach a message of gentleness and kindness. And yet...

I know it's just a phase. Really. I know it. I just hope he snaps out of it before my mom comes down to spend a few days with us this fall before the baby comes. She's be horrified that I'm not spanking (sorry, "correcting") him already. And frankly, I don't have the strength to try to explain to her why we're avoiding spanking.