My son is not a people pleaser.
I have known this since sometime in the second trimester.
Breakfast had become a perverted ritual. I would make my breakfast, arrange it on the table. And then go lean my wobbly pregnant self against the counter by the garbage disposal waiting for the first wave of nausea, so I could throw up and then go eat. I’m a quick study – this way I didn’t have to eat breakfast twice.
I was on mandatory bedrest the final month, until they gave up and induced me. Twenty-four hours and two rounds of Pitocin later, coupled with one hallucination about cartoon bunnies in scrubs, they gave up again, and decided to go in and get him.
Once he started to cry, it seemed he didn’t stop for a year. He initially refused to nurse, and because of his reluctance to join the world, he had pneumonia and spent 9 days in the NICU. Once we got him home, it was a year before he slept well, always waking up screaming at midnight with no rest until dawn. Then he would only sleep in a specific awkward position in grammas lap – stretched out, legs dangling in space – or with his father’s thumb in his mouth. His father’s.
But he was so beautiful. And he would see me in the morning and smile and reach for me and all the resentment from the night before would disappear into a haze of baby love. (Yeah, that’s total bullshit. But I do love him so much it hurts my heart, so I forgave him eventually.)
He was a flirty, happy toddler. Who refused to use the potty. And once he learned to do that, he refused to poop. He would dance around in circles, screaming, until several trips to the Doctor confirmed there was nothing physically wrong, and left us trying to reason with a 3 year old to no avail. He would, however, poop in the bathtub, and if you weren’t paying attention he would pick it up and hand it to you and laugh when you screamed.
And then his sister was born, and his world was thrown on its head. She looked exactly like him, but was his polar opposite. It was easier for her – there is no other way to say it. Something in him has still not forgiven us for bringing a cuddly, thoughtful, imaginative, smiling doppelganger into the world.
He kicked holes in the door in frustration. I took his shoes. He threw tantrums in public, threw food in private. We persevered. He made faces in family pictures, built a catapult, peed in my window wells. Learned to swear. He was suspended from preschool. Who gets suspended from preschool?
I have gone to every parent-teacher conference with trepidation. I have taken toys, freedom. Shouted, reasoned, grounded, harangued – made him sob and run from me in frustration because it is the 100th time I have corrected him that day. Watched as they stationed a bouncer behind him at the school choir concert, ready to pull him if he decided farting noises would be as funny to everyone else as they were to him.
He is good, and smart, and unsure of who he is in a world that is happy to tell him. He can build any complicated model from the picture on the box. He can sing like an angel. His ability to reason surpasses that of some adults. His pattern recognition is….developing. He is eleven, poised to enter middle school. He is not one of the popular kids. He is an acquired taste. He rubs adults the wrong way – they do not appreciate his perspective, his humor, or his willingness to share them. Other children frequently find reasons to laugh at him. Some are afraid of him, as he will not hesitate to fight back. He has a close knit group of friends, all gifted, all different.
I have tried so hard to instill in him both the confidence to not allow others to change him, yet to be aware that the feelings of others are as important as his own. I have made excuses for him, incurred the wrath of the Parenting Police (they always know better), taken the blame. Refused to listen to the well-intended who encouraged Ritalin even as there was no clear diagnosis, because it’s in vogue – even as I can see in their faces they know it’s not right, he just makes them so tired, and I get it. I do.
I glowed with pride when he placed second in the school spelling bee and shook the hand of the winner. Thrilled when he read books three grades ahead and solved complicated math problems in his head. Sighed in exasperation when he refused to show his Common Core work because he didn’t think he needed to. Why couldn’t they just trust him?
I am also an acquired taste. Not everyone likes me, some don’t like me on sight, and I have always felt like I didn’t fit, like it was not just my fault – but that there was someway I could make everyone like me, if I could just figure it out. I developed an enormous personality because of what I believed were substandard looks, but I seasoned it with so much self-deprecating humor and eagerness to please that I am easy to take advantage of. Sociopaths and narcissists seek me out. I’m a goldmine.
I defend that boy fiercely; I may be the first to call him out on behavior that no one else really cares about but if you come at my boy I will shut you down so fast your head will spin and you will never do it again.
Today he came home from a neighbor’s house and announced that he would not be going to the birthday party there this weekend. Because one of the boys had told him that his dad “hates me. He heard him say I was a…” this part in a whisper “…fucking asshole.”
To be fair, we don’t even know that this is true.
But I saw red and began to plan my descent upon that house with locusts and fire breathing dragons and Orc and Storm Troopers and Darth everyone and Hagrid and Harry Potter and that guy from The Professional and Denzel in Man on Fire and we would watch them burn, together, me and my beautiful boy and my son looked at my crazy eyes and said “Why do you always freak out?”
“I’m not freaking out. I just don’t think he should get to say that to you.”
“You ARE freaking out.” Smiles. “It’s ok, Mom. I’m just not his favorite person. You can’t be everyone’s favorite person.”
My son is ok. He is going to be ok. Never easy. But ok.