There have been moments in my life when I have relished in my witty comebacks and snarky one-liners, and been maybe a little too proud of my clever antics. As it turns out, these personality developments in myself have come at a price: I am forced to see them reenacted by my almost-three-year-old middle child, Curly.
Curly was born with the most perfectly cherub-like face – big blue almond shaped eyes, dirty blonde curly hair, pouty red lips and a wonderfully symmetrical heart-shaped face. Her beauty is undeniable. But, she was also born with her eyebrows knit in a portrait of irritability, with a cautious temperament that makes her distrustful of people at best, and downright mean to them at worst. If it’s possible for a child to be an antisocial cynical pessimist, I think she is one. However, her charm lies in her deep intelligence and thoughtful poise- she gets the punchline of a joke easily, and she will give you a sly gorgeous smile and snicker playfully when she’s in the mood for such things. When you have gained her trust, it is cause for real celebration because you must have done something to really earn it. She’s an eager learner and observer of all things. She’s the type of kid that you feel a sinful sense of pride in; a child that both my husband and I apologize for profusely and take turns blaming each other for her traits in public, but also spend our nights in bed retelling the day’s events about her behavior and then laughing hysterically. For after all, she is us and we are her.
Over the last year, her personality has ranged from aloof or sometimes unnecessarily aggressive, to a surly quick wit that demonstrates a solid understanding of sarcasm. And she’s not even 3. [Insert Pride mixed with Overwhelming Fear of this Tiny Force of Nature.]
Sigh, deep deep sigh, how does a parent manage an almost-three-year-old with a strikingly developed sense and balance of seriousness and humor? I. Just. Don’t. Know. As an example of her personality and behavior, here are a few of her recent quips:
Me: “Curly, you need to wear your coat or you will be cold.”
Curly: ” I want to be cold.”
Me: “Curly, if you don’t eat your dinner, I might just have to feed it to your baby sister.”
Curly: “She can have it.”
Me: “You can’t pee in these panties or you will get all wet and you won’t like it.”
Curly: “No, You won’t like it.”
Me: “If you’re good, I will give you a present.”
Curly: “If you give me a present, I will be good.”
There’s a sense that she’s already outsmarted my plan before I’ve even made it. She has a steadfast sense of what she wants and she will not be deterred by the opinion of a mere adult. I admire and fear her all at once.
The best that my husband and I have been able to achieve in managing her is to show her the example of kindness, politeness and manners, and hope that she mixes in the good lessons with her natural temperament. Don’t get me wrong – we don’t want to change who she is. She is strong and smart and fierce and independent – something that some women (and men) strive for over a lifetime. We hope she keeps those traits, but with some pretty heavy interventions on our part, we hope she can also find that people can be trusted, loved, and respected, and that realizing that is what life is all about.