Thursday, July 24, 2008

He can only be himself.

This morning I had one of those "aha!" parenting moments, those moments when you learn one of the billions of lessons that having a kid teaches you whether you want to learn it or not. We were in the midst of the Morning Getting Ready Rush, and I was simultaneously putting makeup on, talking to a friend on the phone, and brushing J's hair. It sounds pretty benign, but brushing (or God forbid combing) J's hair is a major ordeal, and as such I only do it when I have no choice because his head looks like a little sandy brown swallow's nest. J's normal response to having his hair combed is screaming bloody murder and laying on the floor with his face in his hands face-down on the carpet, while I mercilessly kneel over him dragging a comb or brush through it. As much as the screaming and crying makes me feel bad for him, like most people of our...ethnicity, his hair is kinky-curly and he's gotta get used to it. So I brush, he screams, and everyone's blood pressure goes up for a few minutes.

So anyway I was combing J's hair while on the phone, and although I'm used to the hair drama, the friend I was talking to was astonished at the level of his screeching. J is a screamer. He always has been, ever since he discovered that he could do it. I don't mean that he cries loudly. He screams. Like a coed in a horror movie. Every time he gets worked up enough, he takes one of those huge breaths where they suck in all of the air in a 3-foot radius, and screams like I'm cutting his arms off. So my friend hears this, and keeps saying, "Wow, he's really screaming." Or, "That's pretty overly dramatic, don't you think?" And I was being nonchalant about it, because, well, I'm used to it.

"Doesn't that get on your nerves?" she asks. "Can't you make him stop doing that?"

"I guess I could try to make him stop," I say. "But it's a losing battle. He's a screamer. It's his thing." I could feel her undercurrent of disapproval through the phone line but I didn't care. "I mean, it's just the way he is."

And there was my lesson. J may not be perfect, he may have his annoying quirks like screaming, but he is what he is. It's not my job to change him to meet someone else's expectations or to force him to be something he's not. Sure, I teach him manners and put him in time-out when his behavior is bad, but the key to parenting is to figure which things are changeable, and which things are part of the package that is J. He can only be himself.


LauraC said...

Awesome post (at least I think so since my other alias is Nate-the-screamer's-mom). One time I thought someone was going to call CPS on me in the parking lot because Nate was screaming so loud at not wanting to get into his carseat.

I take solace in the fact that screaming turns into the loudest laughter I've ever heard.

Joanna said...

"Can't you make him stop doing that?" Has got to be one of the funniest things I've ever heard. She was joking, right?

I've pretty muhc decided that if I look at Michael and think I need to comb his hair, then it's time for a hair cut. I'm serious. I don't comb his hair, period. That's why they invented clippers.

Mountain Mom said...

Great post. E's a screamer as well. She came out loud and continues to be much, much louder than her big brother. She also screams when I need to comb her hair. She has fine, wispy hair that gets tangled in nasty knots and if I don't keep on top of it, it sounds like bloody murder in this house trying to get them out. I love that detangler stuff. I don't know if it works on "ethnic" hair as you put it. :)