The youngest of my six children has had a pretty sheltered existence to date. He has only been cared for by three people: Me, Daddy-o, and Nanny Hazel. Even my very involved mom has noted that he’s the only grandchild she has never babysat. Part of the problem is that he’s a bit of a quirky guy and I wouldn’t describe him as my best-natured child. Although there has been a lot of recent growth, development and general temperament improvement, he spent much of his toddlerhood awkward and grumpy. Not exactly the kind of kid you want to burden some unsuspecting caregiver with.
When you have an awkward child, there is a fine line between supporting their little personality quirks while not feeding into - and becoming a slave to - them. For our family, this line got blurred and the result was the creation of our own little monster, known as the Pint-Sized Dictator (PSD). Our PSD is very good at getting what he wants – he throws out non-verbal demands to his team of siblings and they run in hopes of avoiding a fuss or tantrum.
We all consider ourselves the servants of the PSD and he is happiest when he is surrounded by his team of humble staff. In fact, he does not like to welcome outsiders into his sacred circle of trust (and servitude). I can remember a time when a visiting child was sitting at our dinner table and the PSD was offended by her presence. He angrily tried to order the child away from our table. Imagine that cheeky neighborhood kid thinking she had a place among “his people”?
He is now approaching 2.5 years old and I’ve begun to feel like we need to rein in our fearless leader. I thought a good first step would be a couple of mornings a week at nursery school, to get him out of this house and socialized with other people. But the idea of it made me so anxious. Here is an odd child who has not been around strangers. I was especially concerned that, because of his language delay, he would not understand me when I explained that I’d be back for him. So, in a bold move that was either brilliant or evidence that I am a PSD enabler, I sent him off to his first day of nursery school with his 4-year-old brother there as a little “helper” (which is a code word for “spy” and possibly “buffer”).
All went swimmingly, and on day two of nursery school he went solo and had a wonderful time, following routines and listening to his teacher. And so, our little PSD has been dethroned and we’re working very hard to ensure that his little crown stays well out of reach from now on.