She pointed to the small scar, right between her daughter’s eyes before we watched her run off to climb up a slide on the playground. I shrugged to my sister “she’s pretty unafraid of things.” “Uh, yeah, almost too unafraid” she said, rolling her eyes. “Like the time that she charged up to a group of girls on the playground who were wearing pink princess dresses and said “princesses freak me out.” When the girls didn’t respond to her Raquelle said even louder with her hands on her hips “DID YOU HEAR ME? Princesses freak me out!” Not exactly the best way to make new friends.” My sister just shook her head again as I began to shake with laughter at the image of my niece bullying princess wanna-be girls on the playground while she runs around playing with bulldozers in the sandbox. But I was also proud that my sister hasn’t been trying to make her daughter into something she isn’t.
My son Oswald, or Ozzy as we call him will be 17 months old this December. While his older brother Reuben was what Secrets of the Baby Whisperer would call a “textbook baby” (an easy, predictable child) Ozzy is shaping up to be “a spirited baby” (a baby who knows what he likes and will holler until he gets it). I did not sign up for a child who is so resourceful he will push a chair next to his highchair to climb into it and yell until food is brought to him. Who wants to be helpful when I am putting dishes away by taking all of my silverware out of the basket and throwing it in the trashcan- which was half full of garbage. A spirited baby who is so enthusiastic about eating broccoli, sauerkraut and other fruits and veggies we have to ration them so his digestion isn’t messed up* (*aka “the nasty blowouts). A child who refuses starches in favor of olives and pickles. This is not the child I signed up for.
My college friend Tara was in town recently and she joined us for the evening mayhem of food throwing, screaming, my 5 year old squirming and wiggling in his seat until he falls off the chair, I yell at him to stop for the 8th time, or he spills milk everywhere. Which is what we call dinner in our house. After dinner Ozzy kept trying to climb on the table and eat food that has fallen on the floor. Which we call “second dinner” in our house. “oh baby, don’t eat that. it landed on my shoe” Tara squawked as she grabbed a stray piece of cheese that Ozzy had thrown.” He of course started crying when she scooped it up and I just let him cry instead of telling Tara that her shoe was likely cleaner than my dining room floor which I let him eat off of all the time.
It seems like many of my friends are saying to themselves “this is not the child I signed up for” whether it is being run ragged by a spirited baby like Ozzy, a child who was born with special needs, the difficulty of not being able to get pregnant and dealing with the frustration of the adoption process, an unexpected pregnancy or just the chaos of adding a third or fourth child into the mix. These are often not the situations we envisioned when we fantasized about what becoming a mom or dad would be like. Though simultaneously you can be filled with so much joy, love and delight for your child 5 seconds later they can throw your new Bobbi Brown lipstick into the toilet, smear their diaper all over their crib or be obstinately stubborn in refusing to brush their teeth and you are brought sobbing to your knees by the wrath of a toddler. Yet you learn to love in a new way because most of life isn’t what we signed up for. It’s about loving in the midst of chaos, finding joy even in suffering, and putting a picture of your smiling child on your nightstand so you can remember why you wanted children in the first place.