This essay appeared in the June 2010 issue of MetroParent.
I have 3-year-old son who likes to push buttons. Not the literal kind, mind you, just the symbolic kind that drives an otherwise sane mommy a little nutty. He not only pushes the button, he keeps his finger pressed down firmly with the strength of Hercules and the stubbornness of an uncompromising mule. This kid wants to push until he is absolutely certain his requests have been heard and honored and he has all the time in the world to wait. I'm sorry? You didn't understand his request? OK, he will repeat it 7,416 times.
Christopher has an aura about him that screams little devil. Even strangers we pass in stores will stop me and make remarks like "ah, this one is a little hard to handle, huh?" pointing to my charming boy with the impish grin. His blond hair and blue eyes alone elicit whispered comments from most passersby, but strangers who don't know even know us feel the need to comment on his apparently obvious resolve. The scary thing is they are right. His vivid, lively blue eyes hold the full story of this little boy whose determination matches no one. Except mine.
My son’s main concern in life right now is complying with his pledge to the 3-Year-Old Oath which states: "Push parent(s) to the limit and watch seemingly sane adults slowly teeter on the brink of insanity from being asked the same question repeatedly at the highest decibel level the human voice can possibly reach." But, I have an oath too. I pledged to the Mommy Oath which states simply, "win at all costs." I am just as stubborn and optimistic as Christopher is and in no way willing to set a precedent that allows a 3-year-old to outwit, outsmart or outwait me. As a result, battles ensue and lots and lots of Christopher’s tears are shed. If we could turn tears into a viable energy source Christopher could single-handedly solve the current crisis and we would be energy-independent, like, yesterday.
Christopher is the ultimate optimist. He doesn't care if the answer is no after he asks 7,415 times. He asks again and is supremely confident the answer will be yes the 7,416 time. It reminds me of Thomas Edison's quote, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." Because Christopher feels like he inches closer to success with each repetition he has no intention of giving up and for that I give him great kudos. I know his tenacity and perseverance will serve him well later in life but I have to admit that tenacity in a 3-year-old is absolutely, positively exhausting.
Nevertheless, I love that Christopher feels confident in his quests. I love that he stands up for himself and points that little finger in the face of boys (regardless of age) who push him on the playground and tells them that they are “not nice!” I love that he says to me confidently (after many discussions on the topic) “mama, if a boy asks me to put my tongue on a frozen pole I will say no and just walk away.” I love that his determination will lead him on all kinds of great journeys. But, for now, he is learning that he has rules to follow and sometimes no just means, “because I said so.” It’s tough to be 3.
Christopher is just as amusing as he is exasperating. Sometimes I simply cannot hold a straight face when I try to stand firm with him and we both break out in enormous giggles. The crafty looks of innocence/deviousness are too hard to resist without out-and-out belly laughs. I hope he uses his charm for the greater good when he finally realizes how much persuasion potential he actually owns.
I watched Christopher walk away from me on his way upstairs one night to brush his teeth. He was still talking a mile a minute and animatedly waving his hands. As he turned the corner and his voice faded off in the distance a tear rolled down my face. I realized suddenly - I am really going to miss this little boy.