Fifteen years ago, my baby boy was born. And my life has never been the same.
His older brother was born almost two years prior, to the day. My older son, after getting over his colicky period (eight weeks of hell), was a dream baby. He was an early talker, usually pleasant, compliant, and utterly charming. At one point, I remember looking at my husband and asking him why we were pressing our luck by having another baby. “How could we ever have a kid as great as Danny?”
So when J.J. was born and wasn’t colicky, I thought the worst of it was over. He fed every four hours or so and fussed just like a newborn should.
Until he was no longer a newborn but still fussed like one.
We learned quickly that J.J. was–and still is–a high-intensity child. He was grouchy for the first three years of his life. He would have a fit if there were too many raisins in his cinnamon toast. He refused to use the potty until I locked him in the bathroom and sat in front of the door (so he couldn’t escape) for an hour and a half. It was a month before his fourth birthday, by the way. He constantly questioned us, “How do YOU know?” when told something like, oh, “Dress warmly. It’s cold outside.” And he often acted as though he believed he was the only one in the world whose feelings mattered.
Except when he didn’t.
One day, I had a minor argument with my husband over theater tickets. It wasn’t a big deal, except that it must have come at a bad time because I remember slamming down the phone and dissolving into sobs. And then I felt a little pair of arms around my hips. J.J., who was probably around three or four at the time, had walked up to me and was hugging me, to try to make me feel better. It was the only thing anyone could have done that would have worked, and he knew it. At that point, I realized that my son, who was so intractable and prickly, had a deep well of empathy as well.
Parents don’t realize that they can learn from their children. The things J.J. does to press my buttons are the very things I don’t do for myself that I should: holding firm to his beliefs, defining his boundaries, refusing to agree if it doesn’t feel right. He is emotional because he feels things and lets them out instead of repressing them. He is a gift.