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The Dreaded Independence

March 22, 2010
'Kimberlee Kessler Design

I am one of the most stubborn people I have ever met. My husband is right up there with me. Instead of the typical yelling and screaming matches most couples have, we tend to have simmering, steaming battles of will. It should be no surprise then, that when combined, we would create the most stubborn, strong-willed, independent creatures known to man: our children.

I realize that I have been living in a happy state of denial for the past five years. My eldest son has always been the kid who aims to please. He responded so well to praise, that he never needed more than the occasional timeout to get back on track. A little attention, some fun playtime, and we had it really easy with him.

Until now.

It has come to my attention that my formerly polite, happy eldest child has morphed into a miniature version of the stereotypical surly teenager. He’s five-and-a-half, going on fifteen. I’m starting to understand why my grandmother (who had four boys herself) always said that boys should be buried at age two and dug up again when they’re twenty.

My inquisitive, ready-to-please little boy is now a full-fledged know-it-all Kindergartener. He is an expert on all subjects and is always telling us everything we need to know about life and the world around us. Just ask him. Even he’ll tell you that he really does know everything.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that, since he knows everything, he never needs any help with anything. He never needs to be told what to do. He is master of his domain, and we should just leave him alone to live his life now, right? I mean, what am I thinking when I try to teach him something like how to make the base of his Lego tower wider so that it’s stronger?

I must have forgotten my new place in the order of things when I told him we had to leave right now to get to school on time. Or, worst of all of my faux pas, I most definitely should not have told him we were leaving the playground since he kept using sticks as light sabers on his friends. After each of my “missteps” with him, I am rewarded by a roll of the eyes (which go so far back in his head, I can only see the whites), a dramatic gaping open mouth, and the loudest half-groan, half-sigh ever heard. I suppose I should count my blessings that his retorts are still non-verbal like this instead of the backtalk I know is lurking around the corner.

My poor, innocent, perfect little boy. Instead of admitting my faults and letting him go on his merry way, I do dastardly things like take away all Wii and Leapster privileges. I sometimes hear myself channeling my own mother with phrases like, “You need to work on your attitude,” or worse, the one I swore I would never ever say to my own children, “Watch your tone, mister!”

Nope, he doesn’t have it easy, that kid. He’s learning with every new test of his independence, that he’s got to go up against one very stubborn, very mean mommy. This year has been a kind of wake-up call for me when I realize that, although this age is so much easier in many ways than the sleepless nights of infancy and the constant supervision of toddlerhood, this stage is definitely going to give me a run for my money, too.

I know being a parent is never going to be easy, but I thought someone had said that ages five through eight were supposed to be the fun ones when you get along the best.

My husband says it’s a good sign that he’s resisting and showing a little attitude. Up until now, he had wanted to please everyone so badly that he had become a bit of a pushover. In that sense, I agree and I’m glad that he’s exerting his independence and gaining confidence. I just wish it didn’t make me public enemy #1.

(First published in my “Because I Said So” column on TheAlternativePress.com.)

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