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.