I'm sure I've mentioned that Michael is contrary before. In fact, If I remember correctly, I even mentioned that the Pediatrician "diagnosed" his contrariness. But, if you have missed the point, let me just remind everyone that Michael is a contrary child. I'm not complaining, the kid gets it from me.
Being contrary myself, Michael's contrary temperament doesn't bother me at all. It does wear thin for both Andy and my mom at times, but I see it more as adding some sport to parenting. I mean really, how easy would it be if Michael actually agreed with me?
My world is filled with enough contrary that I often forget that not all children are contrary. It's always a surprise to me to see a two year old walking patiently by her mom in the mall. They can do that? Even more shocking to me is when I see a small child actually eat food and enjoy it. How does that happen? It's like visiting a foreign country.
But, sometimes other parents get to be mystified by the shear power of will that Michael can demonstrate over such seemingly small issues.
Last Tuesday when we went to the zoo, Michael and I got to the playground before any other families. We played for a bit before a mother and her three year old son showed up. Michael and the little boy started to play together right away and the mom and I chatted a little bit. One of the play structures has a rubber lattice ladder that resembles a spider web. The distance between the top rung and platform at the top is too far for most three year olds to climb on their own. Michael will climb part way up, but he's just not comfortable going all the way up. I always try to encourage him to give it a try, but I don't force him because one simply cannot force Michael to try something he doesn't want to do.
The other little boy's mother was not ok with this. She started cheering him on and clapping her hands. "You can do it, you can do it!" I repressed the urge to roll my eyes. She was just trying to help.
Michael's response? "I can't," stated calmly.
The mom looked at me and said that there is no "can't" in her house. I just smiled and let her continue to cheer Michael on knowing good and well that she had already lost the battle. She kept cheering and Michael just kept refusing. She tried pointing out that he was almost at the top, and he switched tactics to "I won't". After about five minutes of this I could tell he was starting to get upset with her so I intervened
Once he was down from the web he ran off to play on the slides. The mother turned to me, completely flabbergasted, and said, "I've never seen a child so invested in not doing something like that."
I just smiled again and said, "He's a very, very contrary child." And you know what, I realized that I was actually bragging a little bit. Not because Michael wouldn't climb up the lattice, but because he had made a decision and he was sticking to it. Yes, it can be frustrating at times, but in the long run, I know that kind of strength of will is the foundation of perserverance and integrity. If being stubborn now helps him to stick by his convictions later in life, than I'll take it.