We have reached the age with our almost four year old where he's either completely manic and excited to share with you, or he's so maniacally screaming and piping mad that nothing can get him out of a funk. Didn't expect to have a teenager at the tender age of 3, but there ya have it. We parents try to be firm but loving, and as consistent as possible with discipline. Unfortunately Tristan is just as firm and consistent right back at us, only he is firm and consistent in his negative behavior. How hard it can be to watch him not very lovingly grab toys from his brother, yell quite vociferously at Mommy and Daddy, and manage to throw himself on the floor everytime we ask him to go do something other than play with his toys. How in the world do you guide a toddler into what is good and right and true when he's got both ears covered and is humming a grandiose tune in your face instead of listening? Is there a trick to parenting a spirited child?
We have him in a preschool a couple days a week and they are working on social skills, which is fabulous since Tristan used to go "deer-in-headlights" anytime a kid even glanced at him at library story-time last year. So in his quest for picking up social cues and making friends, he has also picked up some bad habits at school and possibly at home too. He doesn't watch tv or movies, so it's not like there's external influences there, but he is certainly emulating some monster toddlers that he sees somewhere in the universe. So what do we do with that now? How do we train our boy that we need to get along and there are rules in our household? I've always run a pretty tight ship when I was a teacher and now as a coordinator, but how in the world am I failing to teach even the most basic lessons to my 3 year old? I have always loved kids and worked well with them... so how am I floundering on the most fundamental levels for this one who doesn't seem to follow the rules the other children do?
I feel like Everett, our 2 year old, is at that neat exploratory age where he's starting to use his voice for sentences, he vocalizes excitement when he sees his Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal, and when we read Charlotte's Web to him he squeals like a piggie upon seeing pictures of Wilbur. You just can't help but squeeze all the cuteness out of that kid. He's naturally likeable. Tristan is loveable in a different way, and God commands us to love everyone, but here we struggle with how to best love but discipline a kid who is screaming at us. Scenario oft repeated in our household: If there is a cookie, he wants it. If he gets one, he wants 2. If he has a cookie one day, he expects it every snack. No matter when a cookie is eaten, a melt-down will inevitably follow. There is no explanation he will accept regarding cookies not in his mouth. I can't just ban cookies for life because I am afraid of his reactions. And I can ban cookies from all stores, parties, events, and just hope that he will not see blessed cookies. I must teach him ways to co-exist with cookies. But how?
I know the holidays are right around the corner, and I would love to be on my best behavior so that Tristan can grow and thrive, but thinking of last years epic Christmas melt-down when the presents stopped and the wailing began, you can see why I am a bit apprehensive. Though we do not spoil him, and he does get what he needs in our house, but somehow I have missed the mark on meeting my "high spirited" son where he needs to be met. Has anyone else out there had kids with strong independent natures? I have heard such tales of kids likes ours who will be great leaders someday but what a struggle to find our way through the maze of their differences right now. I know he's an amazing little boy and I just want to be able to help him reach his potential. How does one do that?
I got an e-mail this week from a friend in Alaska who relayed to me some uncanny news. She swore she saw one of my boys as a poster-child for a certain baby product company, and asked if Everett had a side job as a baby model. Or did Evy perhaps have a look-alike out there in Hollywood somewhere as many a baby, without a whole lot to set them apart from others, potentially had a doppelganger? Or did my mellow super-chill baby actually have a savvy super-stardom alias as a spokesmodel for teething rings?
Well, did you hear about that Missouri family who had a friend vacationing in the Czech Republic who saw their previous Christmas photo scrawled all over billboards without their permission? Someone got ahold of their flawless family photo card from Aunt Hildegard and used it to advertise their own product... illegally. Did someone get ahold of a picture of my baby to advertise? Well...not quite. But was that really my baby on-line selling teething toys?
Indeed, it is Everett in the flesh. I have a living, breathing Baby Supermodel nestled among us. How did we get a supermodel baby? Did we track down an agent for Everett once we discovered his cuddly chubby cheeks could make even the most cynical person light up with a smile? Did Mom get starry eyed wanting her little man to follow in the footsteps of paparazzi-loved Honey Boo Boo? This is the same child, mind you, that has one finger in his mouth at all times and another finger straight up his nose. This is the same mini-man who covers himself in oatmeal and rice not specifically for their exfoliating qualities but just because it's food and of course it should be in his hair.
It all began when a woman from church contacted us to invite Everett to be part of a photo shoot with a handful of other babies to update their materials with the cutest babies that ever graced the planet. Oh, you want my baby for that... no thanks I have no interest in joining the commercial industry to sell my baby's face to the masses. Oh, it pays, you say, and it's for a product we like... hmmm... okay I think we can spare a couple hours to stuff our little potato into some over-priced Ralph Lauren outfit and smile. (And by the way, don't all babies in pants look like potatoes shoved into jeans?)
Does this shirt make me look fat?
So I packed up Everett one day to pose with a baby posse for pediatric teething products. We entered a house with several pink-laced girl doll-babies with bows in their hair and perfect toothless smiles, hence assuming we had a very slim chance at reaching the poster child status but giving it a shot anyways. Other babies giggled, cooed, kindly shared the product with others... mine drooled, cried, chewed toys into little bits and deposited them all over the studio. Yeah, instant fame ain't happening with my little beluga.
The photo shoot finished, we checked the website periodically for a month or so but ultimately gave up the glimmer of hope for Evy being a Mega-star. Then a year and a half later, our friend must have been ordering this baby product and recognized our little drooler. Don't worry, though, we won't let his new status go to his handsome little head. We'll keep it real- which is pretty easy to do with a youngster that is still in diapers who relies on you for every basic need to be fulfilled. We'll just have to keep him off the Internet ordering baby products in case he comes across himself and gets too smug.
The family keeping it real with Everett.