UNspoil this boy

jobchartThere is a funny picture of a wall decal for sale that is floating around Pinterest. It says boy: (noun) noise with dirt on it. Who ever made it, I would guess, has had the great pleasure and frustration of raising a son. My four year-old is a whirling dervish of shrieks and hollers. One look at him and it would not be unreasonable to think that his pet is a dust bunny. He moves his little body so fast and hard through the house that I worry more about the walls and furniture getting pummeled than I do about him.

Like any average four year-old boy, mine is fueled by imagination and testosterone, which means that he selectively listens and almost never follows directions. Case in point, here are a few things I asked him to stop doing today:

Hey! Stop licking the dog!

Please don’t write on the baby. Yes, I am aware that the markers are washable.

Please eat the tomato do not squish the tomato between your fingers.

Stop growling at me. Ok fine then, stop “roaring” at me.

As one might guess I have got my hands full. This child is a spirited one. So, wild and untamed as he may be, I figured that it was high time I lay down some version of a law from somewhere with more authority than I apparently have. I made a job chart on an old chalkboard and leaned it up against the kitchen bookcase where my son can see it.

On this chart are tangible jobs that he can complete to earn a star. After so many stars add up he gets a prize. The whole while that this adding up of stars occurs, we are having household discussions about what it is to earn something.

My son’s brain just isn’t grasping this concept of earning. I could say that it is because he was our only child for three years before his little bro stole the spotlight. I could excuse his behavior by pointing out that at the tender age of four he isn’t developmentally supposed to get this stuff quite yet. I could say almost anything to excuse his spoiled nature. But the truth is, we spoiled our kid. Now we have to UNspoil our kid. And it is a kind of painful process.

My husband and I never set out with the intention of spoiling our son. When he was born we were told that nature played a cruel joke on our kid and gave him a genetic mutation that caused a serious and life threatening bleeding disorder. His first year was handled with kid gloves. This hypersensitive parenting slipped and sloshed around hospital trips and late night fear until one day we realized that our son was fine. He is a tough kid who flies across the couch because he thinks he is a super hero. He isn’t going to die from a bruise he got after banging into the chair while running at warp speed through the house.

Along with this realization that our son would be fine came the ugly truth that we had been letting him have too much. I should clarify here that our definition, in this household, of too much means a brand new $2 Hot Wheels car every time we go into town. It also means sometimes a whole day of PBS if bags of ice and potential trips to the hospital are on the agenda for the day. We don’t give our kid everything he desires, but we give him enough that the word No seems to almost physically hurt his thriving little ego.

But back to this job chart, I face palm no fewer than 50 times a day trying in vain to get my son to understand why he has to pick up his room or go to bed and stay there The. Whole. Night. Long. I secretly think he totally gets this concept and is trying to find a crack in my resolve that he can exploit to his advantage. The kid is smart. Did I mention that he is four? And did I also mention that at the age of four a child is apparently blessed with ALL the knowledge of the world? My son thinks so, anyhow.

So, here we are at the intersection between Mom Said So and I Want It Now. If it is a battle of wills then I will surely win for I have patience and wine on my side. I can out wait this craziness. But more than a battle of wills, I surely hope that my son is taking note of the life lessons we are trying so desperately to impart on him. I like to imagine that one day he will be a patient and honest man and that he will appreciate the value of work. In the meantime we are racking up the stars and talking maybe too much about concepts that are maybe too big.

© Sarah Cottrell and www.sarahcottrell.wordpress.com and Housewife Plus, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sarah Cottrell and www.sarahcottrell.wordpress.com and Housewife Plus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.