When Baby D was an infant, my husband thought he was the easiest baby. Baby D was content to nap on Andy’s chest while Andy lay on the couch and watched TV. Entire seasons were binge watched during his family leave.
Once Baby D figured out how to move, it was a different ballgame. Baby D learned to crawl–solely for the purpose of cat-chasing.
Baby D learned to walk at 10 months. For five seconds. After his first three steps, he ran.
This was a rough learning curve for Andy. His once-lazy weekends were now about chasing his son, usually with food or band-aids. When Baby D wasn’t running, he was probably arguing.
Baby D was a classic Ashbough: hostile when thwarted. No matter how many times we warned him that our departure was eminent, Baby D threw tantrums when we had to leave parks. He threw tantrums leaving playdates. Hell, he threw tantrums when he had to leave the living room, struggling when we finally picked him up and carried him. More than once he angrily flung himself backwards in our arms, cracking his head on doorways. Only to scream some more.
Potentially fractured skulls were preferable to submission.
I had a ton of baby siblings and was no stranger to tantrums. If I had to hold a door shut while Baby D pounded on it and screamed in rage during a time out in his room, I did. Many times.
My Chinese-American husband, on the other hand…
“I don’t understand it,” Andy said. “Why doesn’t he just do what we tell him without throwing a fit? He never gets his way and it’s embarrassing when we’re in public.”
“Baby D’s a strong-willed, would-be dictator. We’re gonna be fighting this battle for the next 18 years. Get used to it.”
Andy looked appalled. “I never acted like this.”
“Because your father smacked you in the head, remember?”
“It was more like knuckled us in the head.”
“Either way, that’s lazy-assed, problematic parenting.”
“In the short term, maybe. In the long term, hitting your kid does permanent damage. It taught you to obey unthinkingly. Hitting teaches other kids it’s okay to lash out physically,” I reminded him. “I got spanked, smacked, and even beaten with a hairbrush until I bled as a kid. How’d that work out for me?”
“Which was not awesome. We’re trying to be better, more conscious, more thoughtful parents than our parents. The kid will argue and tantrum. And we’re going to let him have his feelings and his fits, but he’s not gonna get his way.”
Andy winced. “It’s so painful. I hate taking him anywhere.”
“Yes, it’s painful now, but there are good things about having a stubborn kid.”
“When he’s a teenager, do you think anyone is going to be able to pressure him to do anything he doesn’t want to do? Like drugs? Smoking? Skipping class?”
Andy took Baby D to a local McDonald’s Play Place not long after that. By himself.
When Andy told Baby D it was time to go, Baby D disagreed.
“Listen up, buddy,” Andy told him. “I gave you a warning and we’re leaving now. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. It’s up to you.”
Baby D stuck out a belligerent chin and said, “The hard way.”
Andy scooped up Baby D, tucked him under his arm, and marched out of McDonald’s. He ignored the laughing parents and the staring old people in the parking lot. Andy ignored Baby D’s wails all the way to the car: “No, Daddy, no! The easy way! The easy way!”
Too late, little dude. The hard way it is.
FYI, Baby D has yet to pick the easy way.