In the battle of the body vs. the brain, my middle son’s body finally won a round, yesterday. He slept until seven o’clock in the morning, which in our house is waking up late, a rare occurrence. He has been fighting sleep since he was toddler in the car, banging his head against the back of his car seat in an effort not to give into the demands of napping.
My boy is strong, in more ways than one, he has the kind of strength that can frustrate a parent. He has always been this way, since he was young and took the word no as a sign that I just wouldn’t do something for him, not that he couldn’t do it himself, an obstacle rather than a dead-end.
As frustrating (and, sometimes, worrisome) as his behaviors can be, a brief conversation with another parent, last year, reminded me of what I’ve always known in my heart. The qualities that make can make him difficult are the same qualities that also make him great.
The conversation came as I was sitting on the lacrosse field, watching my son hit an older teammate in the helmet with his lacrosse stick. I thought aloud “Why?” Especially, since I had just talked to him about this exact behavior right before we got to practice. He had been in an ongoing battle with one of his teammates, who had teased him for missing a ball. My advice, which he clearly wasn’t taking, was to ignore the kid.
A dad, I knew, was standing next to me and not wanting him to think my son was just an obnoxious punk (because half of parenting is worrying what other parents think), I explained that ever since this older kid had made fun of my son for missing a ball, my son had had it out for him, and so the battle spurred on. But, as I explained to the father, I didn’t want my son to get caught up in fighting with another boy, I just wanted him to ignore him. But my son, being who he is, couldn’t let it go.
The dad looked at me and said very matter-of-factly, “He doesn’t take shit from people. Maybe, that’s not a bad thing.”
I have carried those not very profound words with me, ever since. That day I came to realize that perception is everything, and while I don’t want my kid going to battle over every slight or taunt, I decided that I also shouldn’t be angry with him for sticking up for himself.
My perception of him will shape his image of himself. I can choose to see my son’s qualities as negative or positive. I can see his stubbornness as defiance, or something that will carry him far some day. I can see his strength as something to be conquered, or a quality that is admirable. I can see his determination as exhausting, or exhilarating. I can teach him to channel and refine his qualities and lead him on a path to greatness, or I can teach him that those same qualities make him bad and unmanageable.