Sunday, October 04, 2009

Grumpy Young Men

Our 8-yr-old cat, Clark, is very needy. He follows us from room to room, making sure he's never alone. This would be endearing, if not for his fatal flaw: he's a biter. If you try to engage him in play, or pet him lovingly, he enjoys it for a while but always ends up biting you. It starts as a love nibble, his way of interacting. But it always escalates, and it always pisses everyone off.

Our 6-yr-old son, Connor, is very needy. Recently, his teacher asked me to send a love note and a picture of the family to school so that Connor could keep it at his desk and look at it when he missed us during the day. And when we're together, I constantly hear, "Play with me! Play with me!" This could be a lot of fun, except that Connor never enjoys it. You agree to play with him, you make yourself wholly available, but everything you do is wrong. You're standing in the wrong place, you're playing by the wrong rules, you stop too soon, you stop too late, etc. Nothing you do is ever good enough, and the complaining always escalates until we abandon the activity and everyone ends up pissed off.

Apparently Connor, just like our cat's namesake (Clark W. Griswold, Jr.), tends to set standards that no family activity can live up to. What's in his mind is always better than what is actually happening. I struggle to teach him the joys of going with the flow, to show him that being together is what's fun. I know he gets it from me, his tendency to get lost in the details and miss the big picture. But no matter how much I plan, I know how to enjoy the reality of an occasion even if it doesn't match the idea of it I held in my head. I hope I can teach Connor to do that sooner rather than later, because I'd like to see him enjoying himself more and complaining less.

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