Monday, December 27, 2010

One Parent's Battle With Changing Table Syndrome

Clearly, what I need to make this blog really hum is someone on this end, kicking my ass to write more posts. Amazing how quickly 3 months can fly by. And oh, what a 3 months it's been on the dad front.

On the one hand, there's been Max crawling and squawking and cruising around the furniture and generally leaving a path of destruction in his wake. His little personality has been taking shape right before our eyes--that is, assuming he hasn't rendered us temporarily blind from scratching or smacking or grabbing our eyeballs right out of their sockets. That's right folks--we've got a crabby little meanie on our hands--albeit an admittedly adorable crabby little meanie. His inner Beelzebub surfaces for a variety of reasons--laying him on the changing table (an apparent capital offense), stopping him from grabbing every electronic device within reach, laying him on the changing table, not getting food on his high chair tray fast enough, laying him on the changing table, picking him up when he wants to be left down and putting him down when he wants to be picked up...and did I mention he doesn't like laying on the changing table? Stop me if you've heard this one: parent places 1-year-old on changing table. Said 1-year-old twists and squirms and puts up a desperate struggle to a) achieve any position other than laying on his back, and b) ensure that the experience of changing his diaper is akin to wrestling a full-grown alligator.

On the other hand, there's been Jackson, trying oh so hard to carve a path toward independence at 13, but with so much work left to do. Oh, the drama of a 13-year-old. In some ways, his whole life is like Max's time on the changing table, relentlessly fighting every development that doesn't match his desires. Jackson, please take out the garbage and recycling. ("Oh, man, do I have to!?") Jackson, dinner's almost ready, please set the table. ("Not now--I'm watching a YouTube video, and there's only 7 minutes to go.") Jackson, please take the dog out for a walk. ("I hate you--you're ruining my life!") That's the thing I love about 13-year-olds: they possess such awe-inspiring perspective.

That said, he's been showing definite signs of maturity, and it's due in no small part to the continuing evolution of his relationship with Sarah. In fact, today she begin introducing him to a whole new world when the two did their first shift serving up food at a Berkeley homeless shelter, partly to satisfy a school community service project, and partly because Sarah wanted him to pick up some of that elusive perspective. I knew there was a reason I fell in love with that woman.

Meanwhile, through all this, I keep learning about me--about my tendency toward over-reaction (thanks, Mom!), about the price I've been paying for being weak in the area of disciplinary follow-through, and about my misguided tendency to want to be my budding teenager's friend. Cool, calm, relentless consistency. That's my new mantra. I may not successfully achieve it all the time, but at least it's my mantra.

Hopefully, I'll check back in less than 3 months to update you on my progress, or lack thereof. In the meantime, I'll wish you all a happy start to 2011...may our children not drive us totally insane before 2012 arrives.