Dramatic Exit

Dear Persephone,

You are fifty-three months old today. Yesterday, technically, but cut me some slack.

After our long summer vacation, I finally understand what people mean when they talk about children being “spoiled rotten” by their grandparents.

Actually that’s not fair to your grandparents. They are indulgent (I’m looking at you, Susie) but I can’t really blame them for that. I’d indulge you too if I only saw you briefly from time to time. Besides which, you’ve been developing a few unpleasant habits which were already in evidence before our visit to the Midwest.

Unpleasant habits? Well, yes. Lately your stubborn streak has taken an extreme turn. You decide that you don’t want to do something, or that you want to do something you shouldn’t, and when we clash, it gets ugly.

Everyone says parenting has many challenges, and I guess this phase is one of them. I call it a phase, and I hope it is, but it’s probably also an extension of a basic personality trait which began a couple years ago and has continued on and off since then. So this is just the latest manifestation.

The challenge is finding a balance. On the one hand, having a strong will is a virtue we’d like to promulgate. On the other hand, when you make up your mind to do something in defiance of good common sense, or personal hygiene, or safety — well, then, we have a problem.

I’ve read some of parenting advice that stresses the need to be understanding and compassionate, which I agree is important, but so far I’ve seen very little that explains how to deal effectively with such problems. I suspect that’s because there are no easy answers.

Your current mean streak could be a factor of being off your routine over the summer break, and the further unsettling stresses of travel, to say nothing of indulgent grandparents. During the school year I tried to keep you on a pretty regular schedule, so you’re probably not getting as much sleep as you need, and you may be under the weather a bit too. We’ve both suffered from a lingering cough this summer.

Still most of the time you are delightful. Just this morning, you said to me, “You’re the bestest dad I ever had.” I pointed out I’m the only dad you ever had, but I still took it as a compliment.

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