Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nature vs. Nurture

Was I wondering if it was a good idea to medicate my child? Daddy-O certainly was. He was a skeptic, for sure! Well, not anymore. No, sir-ee, Bob! Life is different around the house these days.

B took his first Focalin pill like an old pro. Well, he did fumble a bit. Dropped it into his glass of milk, fetched it out and swallowed it real quick like. After that it was quite anti-climactic. I was trying not to stare at him, you know, looking for obvious signs of change. I'm not really sure what I expected to see. A small floating halo perhaps, a simple set of angel wings would have been a nice touch... at the very least an angelic expression. Nope. Nada. There was just alot of typical Saturday morning behavior with the cartoon watching and the underwear wearing and the waffle eating. Even when I asked him to get dressed for his play date there were no floating flowers or flying birds trailing behind as he run-hopped into his room. Just business as usual. Disappointing to say the least.

The revelation came later in the day. There is a boy in our neighborhood. He's young - only 5 - but he's big and adopted, not that that has any bearing on this. The doctors estimate he will be about 6'5"+. He is much bigger than B who will be 7 on Friday. And he, through no fault of his own (well, mostly), is a terror. He is the victim of over-liberal parenting. He is never, ever, ever disciplined. He drops in the middle of the street in temper tantrums no less than 5 or 6 times a day, he hits his parents, calls his dad a "fucker", etc., and will yell across the street at B that he hates him and he's not his friend whenever it's time for B to come in from playing. I strongly disapprove of him and believe, in my humble parenting opinion, he needs a good spanking followed by an even better hug. Unfortunately, he is the only child even close to B's age in the neighborhood. We'll call him Bob.

So, B is out playing with his authorized play date when Bob comes knocking at the door with his mother asking to play. Since the boys are in an empty field next door I can't exactly keep Bob out, now, can I? So, off he goes to play with the other two boys. Every parent know that 3 kids and a play date go together like, well, 3 tits and a bra. Someone's always gonna be left out. So I didn't let too much time pass before I went to the window to check on things. When I poked my head out there was no sign on Bob. B said they had sent him home. "Were you mean to him?" I asked, doing my best impression of someone who wouldn't have drug Bob home by his ear her own self. "Well! He stole my stuff!" And B had a point. Bob had, indeed, tried to steal B's precious stash of sticks / swords & guns just a few days earlier. So I explained that just because he had someone else to play with at the moment didn't mean he could treat Bob shabbily and soon he would be alone again and knocking on Bob's door. Then what would he do if Bob still had hurt feelings and didn't want to play with him? "I think you better go right over there and apologize. Tell him you'll be glad to play later when your friend is gone."

To my utter shock and amazement he did it. There was no yelling or "But, Moming!". No arms crossed over his chest and proclamations of Bob's obvious wrongness. No "I don't care if he won't play with me!" (because, honestly, they're both stuck with each other). No threats from me to send home the play date. No nothing. Kind of a Mom let-down actually. He just said, "OK.", walked across the street, calmly apologized and came home. When I came to, I ran into the other room and called Daddy-O to share the good news. The rest of the day passed completely uneventfully until his meds wore off at 7:30pm. The moment he reverted to normal was so glaringly obvious. Daddy-O and I looked at each other in amazement. It really isn't us. It's him.

We know we're good parents. We discipline without over-doing it. We love our kids. We spoil them. We live for them. And deep inside we can't help but wonder how much of B's over-the-top behavior is our parenting and how much is his internal power source. Nature vs. Nurture, so to speak. I suppose it's the nature of the parenting beast to doubt yourself. But I swear to you... in that moment when Daddy-O and I exchanged looks across the room all our unspoken insecurities and feelings of failure were laid bare and wiped away in the space of a sigh. It's him. It's B. And we can help him.

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