Equal Parts You, Equal Parts Me, Equal Parts Jack by The Momma Files
I didn’t know what a real temper tantrum was until today.
For most milestones in Jack’s life, I refer to the two moms in my life as a point of reference. I spoke early so why isn’t Jack talking yet? Did Steve, my husband, climb all over the furniture like our little monkey? I am relieved and find some salvage in saying things like “Jack gets this from me” or “Steve was just like this when he was younger.” It’s not enough that he looks like a direct cross between my brother and Steve as a little boy. I have to validate every behavior. I need an answer for everything.
Then, today happened. My immediate thought was to call my mother and then my mother-in-law to find out who Jack got this behavior from – me or my husband. But, I didn’t. Partly because I was too upset to talk and also because for the first time, I realized it was not because of either of us. It was because of Jack. Either he was teething, not feeling well, or just upset. Whatever the reason, it isn’t genetic to have a tantrum, it isn’t more common because he is a boy and not a girl. It just so happens that this can be a common behavior when you are almost 2 years old.
I spent so much time comparing Jack to myself as a child and my husband as a child that I forgot to see him as an individual. I was so thrilled that his two favorite books were ours too (“Dr. Seuss’ ABC” and “Goodnight Moon”), I did not take into consideration that he might like them simply because they are great books, not just because of his genes.
Yes, he is an extension of us but he is also his own person. As he gets older, I am going to have to remember this more frequently. He will make decisions I will not agree with, choose a career path I may not understand or be talented in an area in which I am not familiar. I will not have all of the answers or a justification for why he acts the way he does. I will have to learn to understand him as Jack, and not lump him into the category of mom or dad.
Letting My Child Be Who He is Meant To Be
It is fascinating to watch your child learn something new right in front of your eyes. It is as if you are watching them become who they are meant to be. The open-endedness of learning is a welcomed break from the rigidness of parenting. Along with the necessary no running, no lying, no stealing, eat your broccoli, we should embrace the yes you can play with cars and dolls together, yes polka dots and stripes match, yes it is OK to listen to a book while simultaneously playing with a train set. In a traditional world of black and white, I enjoy parenting in the gray.
My son prefers to listen to books while playing. Sometimes he will come over and read with me but many times, he is otherwise occupied. I still expose him to the books, I still make the effort. I know he is listening in his own way and that is enough for me. We have labels all over the house – mirror, door, table, and chair. He notices them, points out letters and moves on. Our house is full of blocks, art supplies, puzzles and cars. Sometimes Jack will spend a long time drawing on the easel, then move on to whipping something up in his kitchen, another day he is obsessed with building blocks at the table. I encourage each moment because one day that scribble on the easel with turn into the circle he is so diligently trying to create, the mixing and stirring might develop into a career or that tower of blocks will become a city of his own creation.