It’s the summer of 2006. I am enormously pregnant and working at Barnes & Noble, where the air conditioner keeps breaking, and I am frequently asked (with people staring at the lanyard with my name emblazoned on it) if I work here. No, really, I’m just a crazy pregnant woman wandering the aisles pretending to work in retail.
One afternoon, while working the registers, a mother comes through with her two year old daughter. The daughter is in her arms, screaming bloody murder, and attacking her mother like a feral child. She’s having a tantrum, and the mother is completely ignoring her. I ring up their books, and once they’re out of earshot, I turn to the manager of the store–who has a two year old–and haughtily declare, “My child will never behave that way. Can’t people control their children?” To which my manager laughed and said, “You don’t have kids yet. You’ll see.”
Sometimes I think my son might have been listening at that very moment. My child, from the youngest of ages, has been precocious in every way. He seems to feel things and experience the world on so many more levels than I ever have. He’s outgoing to the point of embarrassment. When he’s angry, it’s like someone’s flipped a switch and there’s nothing to do. Reasoning, begging, bargaining, bribing… nothing works. He’ll go for two weeks with perfect behavior, polite and generous and sweet; then BAM, something triggers an outburst and I’m left wondering how the hell I became such a terrible parent.
For a while, I didn’t know what to do. I figured my husband and I were just failing as parents. I mean, I hung around with other kids our son’s age. Kids who sit still during films, who occupy their time by playing on their own, who take naps twice a day and cuddle with their parents. My first reaction wasn’t that there was something wrong with him, it’s that there was something wrong with me. We had episodes on planes, in cars, in restaurants, at social events, with family, with friends. For a while there, it was almost like being kept prisoner.
So we’re geeks. We tried reading. But something was missing. We quickly learned that when it came to our son, these books just didn’t apply. My kid is not the happiest kid on the block, I’ll tell you. You try talking to him like a Neanderthal and he’ll give you that look like you’ve lost it. This kid, at three and a half, pushed away a sandwich at lunch one day, declaring, “Actually, I’d prefer peanut butter and jelly.” With adult inflections and everything.
Thankfully, my husband, on one particular terrible day, discovered a book called Raising Your Spirited Child.
Read more about how the book helped over at GeekMom.