I have to keep reminding myself of this. He acts so mature sometimes. He is so responsible. He takes his dishes to the sink, throws things away when I ask him to, and apologizes, very sincerely, if he accidentally kicks me. (Not so much when he does it on purpose.)
There are times when I need no reminding, however. This morning, after Oliver earned a stone to put in the “good behavior” jar by putting his pajamas away, Simon and I had 30 minute stand-off in which he refused to get dressed unless I gave him a stone, too. I finally changed the boy myself, only to have him strip down to his underwear again and continue yelling and crying for another 30 minutes.
Tonight, after refusing to get in the bath after being asked several times, he threatened the same behavior again. “I won’t take a bath! I won’t!” I started helping him out of his clothes, and he started kicking. “Simon, didn’t we already do this this morning?” I asked. And suddenly he was as pliant and helpful as any mom could hope for. He apologized. He took off the rest of his clothes. He was in the bath in seconds.
Some of our friends have commented that Simon is an old soul in a very young body. I don’t often realize it because he is my first child. I have nothing to compare him to. He is who he is, and while I recognize that he is, in many ways, a remarkable child, I don’t really appreciate how different he can be from other kids his age. Until I see other kids his age, hear the way they talk, watch how their parents interact with them. And then I realize how adult-like he can be, how he interacts with adults so easily and confidently, how I treat him and talk to him and think about him.
I’m so grateful that he is who he is. I love his childlike intelligence, his insatiable curiosity, his humble confidence. But I must admit that sometimes it gives me whiplash to try to keep up with his behavior, so 4-year-old one minute, so grown-up the next. I never know if I should be encouraging him to just be a kid more, or treating him like the adult that seems to be lurking inside him.