Despite appearances, I love my kids.
Two months ago, Detective Munch turned six, and to mark the occasion I shared (on FB) one of the sappiest things I’ve ever written, a top ten list of reasons I love him. The reasons included his face, his laugh, his voice, and his love of music. I wrote the post when he was two, and I still love my son, and always do.
But right now, I don’t like my son.
Detective Munch and I have both changed in the four years since I wrote that post, and some of the reasons in the list I cited above don’t apply the same way anymore. His hair isn’t as long (though I still love it), he still loves music (The Beatles FTW!) but he doesn’t dance quite as much, etc.
His personality hasn’t so much changed as materialized, and his impressions? Well, he does a killer one of Daddy. Because he’s a lot like me. Which is one of the problems. How do you discipline someone who, when he acts out, acts like you at your worst?
It’s been tough lately. I used to wonder if I just couldn’t handle five-year-olds (I know a few, and they are all tough customers in their own ways) but now Detective Munch is six, so it’s not so easy to pretend it’s simply an age thing (unless it’s just a 2-thru-25 thing?). Besides, despite my hope that turning six would make things a little easier for both of us, that’s not how this works. Birthdays don’t magically flip behavioral switches.
The little dude is hyper to the point of annoyance, he ignores repeated requests to stop doing whatever dangerous/irritating/obnoxious thing he’s doing, he talks back, he lies, he whines, he throws fits with abandon. It’s like he’s caught between being a little kid and a teenager. (I feel like I’ve said that before.) And he gets on my every nerve.
It’s not that there aren’t reasons for this, the primary one being the recent arrival of his younger brother. And remembering that going from being the hottest ticket in town to old news can’t be easy on a guy’s ego. I am aware of this. But being aware is one thing, adjusting your daily expectations and reactions is another.
When you’re stressed because you’ve had a long day and the baby is crying and the six-year-old refuses to eat his dinner and then starts going ballistic when you refuse him dessert, you don’t always stop and consider the psychological impact that suddenly sharing a home with a needy baby has had on the older child. No, you get fed up, and you snap, and he screams, and you yell, and he cries, and you drink, and it all just feeds itself.
I’m not a perfect parent. I may not even be a very good one. I know that, recently, I haven’t been at my best. I say no too much, I get irritated too easily, I lose both my patience and my temper too quickly. Because guess what? Having a new baby in the house has an impact on Mommy and Daddy too! The last ten months or so have not been the easiest, for any of us. None of us have been our best selves much lately.
I still love my son, that will never change. But I don’t always like him. The thing is, I think that’s okay. Kids can be annoying! (They’re people and people are annoying sometimes.) It’s not always their fault; the changes come fast and furious for these little guys, often faster than they can handle. Whether they’re adjusting to something like a new sibling, or a new school year, or a potential Trump presidency, or they’re simply adjusting to life and themselves, it can take a while to get a handle on it all. It took me about thirty years to get a handle on myself!
And now it’s taking me some time to get a handle on my six-year-old.
I’ve been writing about this a fair amount lately, and I’m realizing I don’t really have a point. I just keep venting in an attempt to remind myself that it’s not always my son’s fault, and hoping that the next phase he enters will wear just a little bit less on my nerves.
Until then, it’s on me to be the adult and cut him a little slack. After all, the time is now, before he becomes a teenager and it really is his fault.