Today, my oldest son A.’s first birthday party experience was a colossal disaster. Despite a week of anticipation, coddling and even sleeping with the Superman-themed invitation, counting down the number of sleeps till the day of the party, and carefully choosing a present for his friend, he was that kid who had get picked up early because he was screaming for his mother at the door.
I’ve never had that kind of kid before. My son has always been fiercely independent. Even as a baby, he never made strange with anyone, always wiggled out of my arms if our cuddling session lasted a second too long, was eager for playdates with friends, and never had separation anxiety of any kind. He eats anything I put in front of him, chatters at length to strangers in the grocery store, does chores around the house, entertains us with silly antics. Basically, he’s an outgoing kid who certainly doesn’t lack in confidence, but today, he fell apart completely. The tantrum didn’t cease when I forcibly peeled him off me, handed him over the very competent parents who have three boys of their own, and left with the reassurance that I’d be back soon to get him.
Something I’ve noticed is that A. has predictably rougher days at nursery school whenever he and I have fought earlier in the day. Today was a particularly rough morning. His first action after waking up was destroying the neatly folded stacks of laundry I’d placed in his room, and everything went downhill from there. He ran around the grocery store and pulled things off the shelf. The end result was a morning full of reminders to listen and a few time-outs. That likely put him edge to begin with.
Then I blame myself for bombarding him with additional prompts on how to act while at the party. I may have overwhelmed him on an already bad day with descriptions of proper behaviour to the point where he no longer knew what to do. Instead of trusting him to be himself, the usually delightful little guy he is, and trusting the training I’ve given him to date, I made him agitated with my high expectations. The end result, ironically, was having the single worst-behaved kid at the entire party.
This sensation of embarrassment is a first for me. I’ve been angry, irritated, upset, frustrated, and depressed with my kids in the past, but never embarrassed. It’s different when they’re small and act out without understand what they’re doing, but this time I know my son was fully aware of his actions and that’s what makes it embarrassing. Oh well, I suppose this is a good lesson for me, to remember that for all the confidence my little boy exhibits, he’s still just that — a little boy, with sometimes irrational needs and an internal emotional roller coaster that he probably inherited from me. Instead of placing such high expectations on his behaviour all the time, maybe I need to lay off a bit.