14 June 2009

Cool Hand Luke

Have I told you about my youngest son Sacha, the most ball-bustingest child I have had to pleasure to spawn?

When Sacha was 3 days old, he had a brush with death. He was hypothermic, and had to be rushed to the NICU, where he resided for 16 days. Every parent knows that many aspects of one's temperament are clear from birth. Sacha loves to fight, and I am sure it helped to save his life. While it is my fondest wish that this quality will continue to serve him well throughout his life, it often makes mine a living hell.

I thought that Sarah was strong-willed; and then, I met Sacha.

The rules of parenting are much like dog training, and our children are attached to us by an invisible leash. Of all my children, Sacha is the one most willing to pull it to the breaking point. As a result, I am forced to yank his choke collar so frequently that his neck is in a state of constant irritation.

At about age 2 1/2, he began the charming habit of moaning "Ow, ow, you're hurting me!" whenever he was subjected to some routine act of bodily maintenance, like diapering, bathing, or god forbid, massaging his flesh with lotion after bathing. At first, I was concerned that perhaps my touch was too firm, and it was bothering him. So I lightened up. This proved to be a good experiment, because it did absolutely nothing to mitigate the complaining, and as such, served as an important reminder that my son is full of shit.

I am frequently relieved that he resembles me, because the way he carries on when he is forced to do something he does not want to—like leave the playground, hold my hand when crossing the street, or sit in the shopping cart (there is no way I want this child roaming freely in a public place!)—he kicks and screams and resists so fiercely that I fear someone will call the authorities to report a child abduction.

His destructive force is awesome to behold. Many items that have made it safely through my two older children have crumbled in his small hands. He destroys board books, and takes apart vehicles with unparalleled skill and efficiency. When it serves his mission, and hand strength is insufficient, he resorts to biting, which he does with impressive precision. His jaw can sever the wheels from matchbox cars. It is not uncommon, when I am vacuuming, to come across a stray foot, or head from a small plastic action figure. We have a collection Star Wars figures that were my brother's childhood toys; Sarah and Gabriel played with them happily and they remained unscathed. Sacha uses them as teething toys; Darth Vader quivers at his approach.

His tantrums are so fierce that I have seen him levitate with anger. I have yet to understand what motivates this child, other than the sheer delight of the fight. When I put him on the bottom step for a time-out, he will quickly calm himself down, until I come back to retrieve him, at which point, he starts up again, and so on the step he remains. Up and down, up and down he goes. One day this week, this went on for forty-five minutes.

Today, in a fit of anger he knocked over the contents of the recycling bins. David brought him in the house and placed him on the step. When David came to get him, and told Sacha that they were going outside clean up the mess. Sacha replied, "No."

And so he got another few minutes in solitary. When it became clear that this approach was not working, David dragged him, kicking and screaming to the yard to clean up, where Sacha staged another protest. Eventually, David got him to comply by handing him the trash, one item at at a time. (As a result, he also lost his television privileges for the day; ouch!) By the time the ordeal was over, Sacha had worn himself out so completely that he voluntarily climbed into his crib for a rest. This is unprecedented behavior for a child WHO GAVE UP NAPPING A YEAR AGO. For such a little thing, he has very large balls.

He may be a force of nature, but he is also incredibly funny, charismatic and sweet. Every day when I retrieve from preschool, once he is buckled in his car seat, he says to me, in his deep gravelly voice (think Tom Waits before puberty), "Thanks for picking me up, Mom."

He has a band of second graders with whom he pals around when I pick Sarah and Gabriel up from school. The funniest thing about their relationship is that it appears to be mutual. Although Sacha is so much smaller, he seems to be more than just their mascot; the big boys look forward to seeing him as much as he does them. Sacha is the is the bantam-weight champion of the elementary school playground. He greets his friends by punching them in the stomach, and then they run off to play tackle football, or whatever it is boys to do hurt one another in the name of having fun.

He is the child that broke us, the wild stallion that refuses to be tamed. David often says he may be the one who brings back corporal punishment. We have fantasized about military preschool. And while it is true that he drives me crazy on an hourly basis, he is wicked cute, rushes into my arms with such force that he nearly knocks me over after we have been apart for a while, and is very free with kisses and I love yous.

And do you know what his first word was?


Cross my heart and hope to die, he said Mama before Dada, no, bottle, bear, or blankie. How many children have done that?

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