That prams and art are not mutually exclusive.

What Are Little Boys Made of?

Boy 1 is starting pre-school in 2 weeks.  We have bought a new lunchbox (with multiple compartments).  Belongings have been labelled.  His shoes are clean and they still fit.  We’re ready.  I think.

I have never felt completely confident parenting this boy of mine.  He is my test case.  I feel like he is a cake, made from unlabelled ingredients of unknown quantities, and pre-school will be our first peek into the oven to see if he is cooking properly.  The scariest part is, this cake won’t be fully cooked until he is 18.  By that stage, we will have probably messed up our other 2 cakes too.  How will we ever get it right?

As a baby, Boy 1 was textbook.  I know he was textbook because I constantly had my nose in the book trying to figure out what to do with him.

All of his milestones were reached according to the book; I thought it must have been something to do with my parenting skills.  Did other mothers not read the same recipe as me?  My cake is Perfect.  They must have skipped a step, or mismeasured.  I’ve got this baby thing sorted.

He started sleeping through at around 3 months.  Further evidence of my fantastical motheri-ness.  At around 5 months, he started fussing at every feed.  Screaming after a few minutes on the boob.  Huh?  Then he stopped sleeping through the night.  I checked the troubleshooting guide.  What’s going on?  Not enough milk?  Too hot?  Too cold?  Do we still have time to make warranty repairs?

After several check ups and lots of tears (my own), the fussing was diagnosed as his personality.  He is incredibly impatient and painfully exact; do something once, and it must be done that way For All Eternity.  He can go from blissfully happy to crying mess in less than 10 seconds.  When he was a toddler, he would wake me up at 6am and without waiting for my eyes to open, would ask for his Weetbix.  If I didn’t immediately rise from my bed and make him his Weetbix, he would start crying hysterically.  Sometimes I would start preparing the Weetbix, then he would start fussing and crying; turns out I was using the wrong bowl, or I put the sugar on before the milk.  I had breached the sacred order of doing things, and to this little man, it was nothing less than an Epic Tragedy.  Who knew breakfast could be fraught with so much danger?

I joke, but for many years I have worried that he may have Asperger’s syndrome.  Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder where the sufferer has high-level language skills, but has trouble handling social situations because they are incapable of reading emotions and understanding social conventions.  They are also dependent upon repetitive behaviours and often have restricted interests (obsessions) in a particular field (in our case, cars, now Lego).  Many an afternoon has been spent Googling his many and varied quirks; it served no purpose but to delay waking him from his nap, which would often result in further crying.

These concerns were compounded when we had Boy 2.  You could not meet two more distinct personalities.  Boy 2 is warm and people are drawn to him.  He is a wise old man in a cuddly toddler body.  When he asks for a cuddle, he cuddles with every inch of him, draping himself across your body like wet washing.  Boy 1 doesn’t like cuddling; he is like a knife in a drawer full of spoons: rigid, unyielding, straight.

Needless to say, pre-school will position him beyond his comfort zone.  And I don’t know how he will take it.  I hope a new set of eyes on this passive/aggressive, sensitive/impervious, shy/bold person will shed new light on exactly what goes on inside his little head.  I know he is bright, he loves learning new things, and he is more than ready to spend a few hours out of our nest, which has become so much smaller with 3 little boys living here.

Parenting is frighteningly inexact.  His brothers have the benefit of not being the first; we have made many mistakes along the way, probably been too hard, in some cases maybe even too soft.  Although I probably know him better than anyone (being his day to day carer) I can’t figure him out.  How can someone be so aggressive and yet fall apart at the hint of a raised voice?

I figure I just need to love him and let him go.  And man, do I love him.

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18 Responses to “What Are Little Boys Made of?”

  1. Fearful Girl

    As the mother of only a small dog, you know I’m no expert. But boy 1 has always seemed super smart to me, not Aspergers. He makes eye-contact, he engages, he loves attention and he’s sharp.

    My dog loves routine and if things don’t go in the right order, she gets very upset about it. I think that’s just a sign of a smart being wanting to have some amount of control in their otherwise powerless existence. I don’t mean to compare your child to my dog or draw any parallel between their levels of intelligence, but I’ve always thought that the reason Frida likes routine is because in her small world, it’s comforting to know what’s coming next.

    Boy 1 is definitely destined to be a scientist, a mathematician, an engineer or to work in some profession that involves known, predictable, reliable outcomes. That’s not your parenting, that’s his dad’s DNA!

  2. Bree DeRoche

    Beautifully written … and the thought that goes through every single parent’s mind, particularly when they start school/kinder.

  3. findingthesimplelife

    I would just make sure you give it a few days before you make any kind of decision on how it is going. I have a boy that is very similar and 2-3 has been about how long it has taken him for the adjustment on average. The first day in a new place whether it was camp or preschool was usually tears and talk about how much he hated it – but by the third day he loved it, and never looked back. I always felt like he took more after me in that way so I understood him and that gave me the strength to push him to go back, and give the activity a chance. I hope it works out well for you.

    • the rhythm method

      Sound advice. My boy is like me, somehow that seems to make me harder on him than I would be on his brother. I know he’ll love it, its just a question of how difficult the adjustment period will be.

  4. Rhonda

    He sounds fab…my kiddie number one has autistic spectrum disorder, and my bestie’s child has aspergers, it was terrifying going from the ages from 2-5, everything was a trigger, everything a routine. Im now of the opinion that most children have their own quirks, and now that my child has been destatemented as she approaches high school, i wonder if she ever had it at all or if in fact she is just quirky 🙂

  5. yellow

    It sounds like your situation mirrors mine and it is an excellent insight into what reads like a beautiful family, living in a loving environment, with all the usual worries of life.

  6. Green Mama

    Beautiful post, as always. Starting kinder (as we call it in Vic) is so terribly exciting, yet so terribly scary. My cherub, who had never been in care, barely looked at me as she said goodbye and dove right in. I’m guessing my second, who is a little more thoughtful, will have a different reaction.

  7. littlemissairgap

    I say the same thing about my Big Girl … she’s the guinea pig child … the test case. Unfortunately (for her I think), she is very much like me, therefore I see my shortcomings in her & the mistakes I believe I made when growing up. Big Girl probably gets scrutinised twice as much as her siblings because of that. btw … I threw all the books out with #3 child. Miss Flea has turned out ok so far 😉

  8. Maxabella

    Karen, I actually don’t know a mother alive who hasn’t pondered whether her son could have Aspergers…. I think it’s just a boy thing. I think this is what men are like! x

  9. Gill

    My big boy is starting kindy soon, I worry about him, for all the reasons you mentioned with your Big Boy. And I did the Aspergers pondering too. My boy likes things a certain way, he has big reactions to small things ( one tiny splatter of milk on the table and he wails as though he is in great pain). My younger boy is so much more laid back, easy going, less reactive. It helps to read that you (plus Maxabella, Al and the others) have experienced something similar. I’m breathing a little easier now. Thanks!


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