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Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys

Here We Are

Jenifer DeMattia


The countdown has begun to our son’s 4th birthday party. He has asked us to buy him a kite. I think that is a pretty funny request considering the whirlwind we have been through. I can’t help but reflect on where we were a year ago. It was after his third birthday party that we decided to pursue testing for him. We were dealing with a very emotional boy, far too intense for someone so tiny. It was difficult, and at his party we saw a happy boy as long as he was on his own. He didn’t want to be involved with the other children and he declined all the party games the host at the bouncy place was trying to include him in. If we hadn’t been dealing with other issues, his behavior at the party might not have been that big a deal. Looking back at the video of his celebration, I used to get kind of sad because that’s around the time I felt him slip away a little, into his own little place where I couldn’t reach him.

A year later, after the assessments have been completed and the paperwork has been filled out, here we are. We have witnessed him grow and shed some of his reactions to situations that used to cause “sensory overload”, just as they said he would. His tantrums have not really decreased, but have changed. Instead of crying in a corner sobbing and hugging himself he now gets pretty angry and screams and hits himself, an object, and sometimes even us…or his teacher. So let’s just say we’re still working on that. Its hard work for him to understand that he does not own it all, just like most kids. Everything he sees he wants to have, to experience, and to discover instantly. It’s been a hard few weeks. He has really been testing us. He has covered his body with permanent marker and he almost put a quarter in his 7-month-old brother’s mouth because he was “putting money in the cash register”. He colored on every piece of furniture in the basement and he woke me up by jumping on my face. He has run away from me in the grocery store parking lot and at the park. He has overflowed the toilet by stuffing a whole roll of toilet paper in it and he thinks it’s hysterical to put his hands and feet in the bowl. He ripped his books in protest of time-out and he dumped a bag of popcorn in the couch cushions.

He is a wild boy, who will soon be 4-years-old. He is so incredibly frustrating and so intensely sweet. In fact, his heart can be so open that I sometimes envy his ability to show so much love. It makes all the defiant behavior worth it. He is the hardest test I’ve ever taken, but I’m doing pretty good considering there was no way to ever study before hand. I have made a vow to myself for his upcoming birthday party. We have again decided to have it at a place where children can play. I have promised myself to enjoy the party. I don’t care if my son decides to stand on his head in a corner the whole time. It’s his party and he can cry if he wants to, he can laugh, he can run, he can bark like a dog the whole time if that’s what he wants to do. I don’t care. You only turn 4 once. And he certainly doesn’t need his mom in the corner judging him, wondering why he is not being exactly like everybody else. There are literally too many of everybody else’s walking around. He truly does have the moods of the moon and the will of the wind. In a years time I have learned far more about myself than I have about my son. I don’t look at his birthday video from last year anymore with sadness. He wasn’t slipping away. Maybe he just enjoys hanging out with himself sometimes, and he’s a pretty great kid so who can blame him.

In the time we waste not letting people be who they are, we’re only just missing out on what they have to teach us. Whoever he wants to be at age 4, that’s who he is. So here I am, blowing through the wind with him, one hand holding the kite string, and the other holding the small hand of a reckless rebel of a boy.