When your baby is born, you hear all sorts of stories about the challenges of infants. Parents with young children will look at you, their eyes puffy and bloodshot, and tell you about sleep problems and teething and rashes and the importance of color in analyzing your baby's poop. Maybe you get a bit scared, so, you turn to your own parents for reassurance. Your own parents, people who have clearly recreated the past, tell you that all of their babies came into the world, took their first breath and then slept through the night from that moment on. With a nostalgic smile, they tell you that their babies were never sick or needy, in fact, their babies were never any trouble at all. No, their babies were perfect little cherubs. Somewhere between the horror stories and Pollyanna Does Parenting, you find your own truth and you survive. After infancy, you don't hear anything else scary until people start talking about adolescence. Parents in the heat of that battle will raise their eyebrows and give a sinister chuckle and say things like, "Oh...you just wait until they're teenagers" and then turn away from you and drink something from a very large flask. When you turn to your own parents for reassurance, they quickly turn from Pollyanna to Eeyore. Apparently, their teenagers were as horrible as their infants were good. They shake their heads and begin mumbling and then turn away from you to drink something from a very large flask.
Infancy and adolescence. That is all you ever hear about, so, I figured that once our children were sleeping through the night and potty trained that we were in for some good times. I thought we were entering the Golden Age of Reason. I imagined us gliding happily through our days, resolving conflicts (which would, of course, be quite rare) with a serious discussion that would end with group hugs and greater understanding. I pictured laughter and kindness and peace. The children would be accomodating and would listen and do everything that we said because they could reason and because they were getting older and because they would have learned that the world does not revolve around them.
Well, nobody told me about six year olds. Six, my friends, is kicking my ass and we are only one week into it. Apparently, at age six, children begin to develop their sense of self. As far as I can tell, in order to do this, six year olds must be rude, messy petulent little beasts with a complete lack of appreciation. Oh, and that part about them figuring out that the world doesn't revolve around them? Well, I guess they don't figure that out at this age. Better luck next year. I was talking with some friends at work about our various struggles with our children and we concluded that the good times peak at one and it is all down hill after that. There doesn't appear to be a Golden Age - it is just all hard with little bits of easy every few days or so. I now see Eeyore as an optimist. Yes, this is what six has done to me.
As I reflect on my son's independent streak and the energy he is devoting to its development...I can only say that, at this very moment, I understand why some animals eat their young.