Arguably, this isn’t the ideal time to write a blog post.
But, parenting is much like being a volunteer firefighter. You often don’t get the call, but when you do… you gotta put out the fire.
At approximately 12:45am CST, our little boy Olson woke up crying and screaming. Alyssa (now 20 weeks pregnant) graciously slipped out of bed and did her mothering best to soothe our son.
Turns out, this night wasn’t different from many nights this month… at first.
Olson wasn’t hurt. He didn’t have a bad dream. He wasn’t scared.
He simply needed to go potty.
But, in classic firstborn style (or at least that is what I am calling it,) he promptly threw a fit because the “order of events” was not how he would prefer. In these moments one would think Olson was raised from day one with his own butler.
Now maybe you hear the words “throwing a fit” and you think of the ponytail-haired brat child in the cereal isle screaming at her mom because she has been informed she can’t have the glitter pony play set.
That’s the standard “fit.”
Now add the delusion of 1am, the darkness of the world outside and the stubbornness of two gene pools that have beautifully swirled together to make one strong-willed threenager.
Now that you are caught up, let me provide only the most pertinent details.
(Keep in mind, for most of the first 40 mins of this tirade I was lying in bed only hearing what was going on.)
Somehow, Olson had stripped completely naked in the process of going to the bathroom. Well, imagine a little boy stomping his feet wearing nothing but his black crew socks. My beautiful wife has, at this point been doing her best to maintain her dignity while parenting with authority and love.
I rolled out of bed and walked up behind her in the doorway to his room to see if I could provide any assistance. I couldn’t, so I tucked myself back in.
***Note to young parents: It is paramount that you work as a unified team with your spouse. Your children and their need for parenting may at times pull so relentlessly at your marital bond so as to make you believe you must trail blaze alone and/or usurp each other’s process. This is a lie. This is not the time to prove “I’ve got this.”
Alyssa has now told Olson that he may dress himself and tuck himself back into bed. This seemingly reasonable statement has caused a major distress in the mental processor of our boy. So he continues to scream and “cry” and yell “no, no, no.”
This?!?!? Our angel boy? The one who appears so perfect and happy all the time?
Yes. He too, like us, is wrapped in flesh. An earth suit that is at times programmed to fight for “my way” above all things, regardless of how it hurts others.
I am back in bed questioning the next parenting move like a champion chess player. Yet, honestly at this point I feel as if I have never played the game before.
Alyssa climbs back in bed. I can literally feel the tension in her body as she lays next to me. I wonder how much of these emotions, stress and tension have travelled through the umbilical cord. I reason with myself thinking “Maybe it will make our next baby tough?”
Olson is still pleading and crying from his room, demanding that he have his way. He is yelling for Mommy. After a few dozen choked-up, sobbing “Mommy”s I decide to start counting.
Logical thought flies for an open window in these moments. This is a warning. You can’t trust yourself, your feelings, your anything.
Why am I counting? I ignore my own question and trudge through the numbers like a snowshoeing frontiersman who knows he must travel 17 miles before sundown.
The word I am counting is “Mommy.” In fact, this word comprises about 84% of intelligible syllables I am hearing. Then I start having a debate about whether or not “Maaaaaaa-hha-haaa-um… eeee” counts toward my total. Some iterations this word are so unique that I feel I should give him double credit.
Nonetheless, after only a few minutes I have counted 127 “Mommy”s before he finally shows up bedside in our room.
Alyssa has fought the stubborn emotional beast within our child valiantly. She continues to do her best to act in love and speak low and directly to our son’s issue.
I ask myself: Am I laying here because I don’t know how to fix this? Am I trying to stay out of this because I am tired? When do I step in? Will that be disrespectful to her if I take over?
Local time is now 1:32am. I decide to act.
Again, I have weighed the ramifications of intervening at this moment. Usually one of us can carry a nighttime tirade through to the end. But this night was clearly next-level.
I threw off the covers and carried Olson off to his room. He is lobbying for someone to tuck him back in to bed. Seems like an innocent request, right?
Realize he has been attempting to boss his parents around for near an hour.
True parenting and loving discipline know better than to succumb to his demands. To do so would be to affirm this insane behavior and teach him to be persistent until everyone does as he says.
There seems to be a blurry line here between negative stubbornness and positive determination. But trust me, in this moment I see the line very clearly and our son is on the stubborn side.
The next 30 mins go down like a bull-fight in Madrid.
I am the bull fighter waving the cape. Except my cape is not red. It is white for surrender. I must remain calm and focused. The bull will charge without warning.
With every pass my 3y/o bull makes, I shake my white flag and offer terms of peace. They are: to listen and obey by putting yourself back to sleep.
This proposal (which has not changed from 60 mins ago) seems to fill the young bull with more rage every time it is mentioned.
I am careful not to speak. This bull is wild and strong, but equally smart. He knows exactly what we have told him. It is foolish to continue repeating the same rhetoric over and over again.
Now the movement between bull and fighter becomes a dance. At each disobedient turn, the bullfighter spanks the flank of his contender, as a gentle reminder of rank. There is a respect between both and a deep understanding of how this goes. Just like the spectacle in the arena, this dance between father and son has been performed since the beginning of time.
After countless charges and waves of the white cape, this bull has shown a sign of fatigue. He is now yawning in between stomps and romps. His rump is red and his cheeks redder. As the matador turns to leave amidst the snorts, he hears:
“I’m ready to obey now.”
Now the bullfighter knows he has won.
But victory is no longer the impetus. He will not put to the sword a beast who has proven not to be a beast after all.
The bullfighter watches as the young bull walks toward the stall and, resisting, climbs into bed. The cape is no longer white, but a soft navy cotton which the matador pulls up and over his rival’s shoulders.
It is now after 2am.
The young one snorts in protest that the tucking in was not done properly. The man prods him and gently reminds him of his place. A brief moment of understood love passes unbeknownst to the sleeping arena around them.
It is not the last time either of them will fight.
But tonight, they will find rest.