Jacob has a trifecta of issues that make it very difficult to parent him. He has an overactive imagination, he is highly distractible, and he has excuses for everything. The three issues work together to make him a force to be reckoned with, every time.
It starts with him getting an idea in his head and buying into it 110%. If he's playing sports, he thinks it's a real game and he's a real athlete. If he's playing Legos, he needs a full story complete with every little detailed prop. If he wants to dress up like something, he goes overboard and wants to make sure it is as authentic as possible. He takes things so seriously. He's mad at me every time I kibosh the idea of him getting new cleats for tee-ball this summer. He's already got the cheap, general sports ones we got him for soccer, but he insists those are not real baseball cleats. Hello, you're not even five! He's been obsessed with Native Americans for a while now, thanks in part to their presence at Knighthawks games and one of his favorite movies, "Crooked Arrows", about a modern day Native American high school lacrosse team. He told me today that he wants to be a Native American when he grows up. Obviously that is not happening, and no matter how I tried to explain to him that a) you have to be born as one, you can't just become one; b) dressing up and painting your face does not make you a real one, even if the clothes are the real thing; and c) he is blond and will never look like one; he insisted.
Second, he gets distracted so easily. I know that all kids do, but part of me is starting to worry it's something he truly can't help. We can tell him to do the same thing 10 times in a row, and he still won't do it--not because he's purposely ignoring us--but because he can't multitask. As he's putting on his pajamas, for example, he will get distracted by anything that's in his room. Even if we're standing there and saying it repeatedly, he will ask a hundred questions in between and he cannot put on his pajamas at the same time. If he's in the living room and needs to go upstairs, he gets distracted by the TV, by playing on the stairs, by ten more questions. It's amazing. And frustrating. While I know some of it is stalling, I think a lot of it is genuine distraction in his brain--needing to have all his questions answered, needing to know every last detail, and needing things to be just so.
Finally, the excuses. Oh, good Lord, the excuses. He's got one for everything. For problem #1 above, he's got a reason why he needs all of those things to be a certain way. He needs baseball cleats so he doesn't get hurt. He needs this Lego set because his guys don't have anywhere to sleep. He needs to make his hair long, black, and in a mohawk because he needs to look like a real Native American. If he gets in trouble at daycare, inevitably it started with someone else or his teachers said it was okay. Tonight I made him a dinner he usually loves (English muffin pizzas), but he insisted he doesn't like them and he refused to eat them. First he didn't give any reason, but then he said his belly hurt. Then he said he needed healthier food so he can grow. Then the crust was bad for his throat. I told him if he felt sick and if he wasn't going to eat dinner, he had to go straight to bed (to be fair, bedtime wasn't that far off anyway). But then he didn't want to go to bed because he didn't feel well and needed to go to the doctor. I couldn't win, I guess! Finally I demanded he go upstairs and sit in the bathroom. I had him get into his pajamas and offered to make one piece of toast for his dinner. DONE. Before bed (when he was suddenly feeling much better, by the way), I told him that I would call the doctor tomorrow, but I asked him what he'd tell the doctor was wrong. He didn't have much to say, and kept smiling like he thought he was pulling one over on me. Well, I may just send him anyway, because he's been complaining enough about belly aches, headaches, and leg pains lately that it wouldn't hurt to double check. We've explained Peter and the Wolf to him, but it's hard to know whether or not he's telling the truth or buys into his own random excuses. He's also had a cough and stuffy nose for weeks, so who knows if something isn't just hanging out and making him a little extra miserable?
I've said for years that he's determined. Once he gets down a path that he wants to go on, it is very hard to get him off of it. So if it involves numerous distractions, excuses, and random details to make everything exactly how he wants it, so be it. Of course, it makes it very hard for us. He's only four and is in no position to make those sorts of demands. He truly thinks he needs certain things, and yes, sometimes Craig wants to move heaven and earth to make it happen, but it's not always practical or possible. It's such a challenge to deal with a child who is so dialed in to what he thinks his reality should be. When he loosens up and lets that stuff go, he can be absolutely delightful to hang out with--funny, smart beyond his years, ridiculously adorable, very talented--but when he's fixated, it is exhaustingly repetitive and constantly argumentative.
I wish I had a happy ending to this post, that we somehow figured out a way to work with this type of mindset, but we don't. I won't lie--sometimes we're not on the same page dealing with this stuff, which makes things even harder. I want to keep him rooted in practical reality, but like I said, often Craig wants to indulge as many of these desires as he realistically can. We're working on that ourselves, but as of yet, neither of us has discovered a good way to manage these issues. I know Craig thinks he's doing his best to be a good dad, and I think I'm doing my best to be a good mom...but neither option seems to be the key to having a tolerable child. So, in the meantime we'll go on explaining his random stories to people and try to help him keep in mind reality vs. pretend. Let's hope one of these days he gets our logic and this gets easier...at least before his brother starts picking up the same bad habit! :(