Photo by: Salomão Santana

I Max

by Lory Manrique Hyland
Photo by: Salomão Santana

Max (2 years old, gorgeous, spirited, smart, curious, humorous, outgoing, friendly Max) is our wild child. By that I mean – he’s wild. All of Zach’s books and toys made it through his infancy and toddler years intact. Max comes along, and two years later, everything is broken. Pages torn, blades ripped off helicopters, teddies decapitated. As an infant, upon entering a room full of strange adults and babies, Zach would cling to me for a very long time – say, an hour—before joining in the fun with the other kids. Max, upon entering a room full of strange adults and babies, goes up to one of them and says, “Hi, I Max,” blows a big, wet raspberry, then smiles. They are different children.

I was in the grocery store today with Max. Trips to the grocery store with Zach were no bother. You gave him a cracker or piece of bread and he sat in the trolley seat quietly for ages amusing himself. Max in the grocery store is the proverbial bull in the china shop. I try not to take him if I don’t have to, but if I have to take him I try and make it quick. Supervalu in Glanmire has many good attributes and excellent customer service, but what they don’t have is restraining belts on their supermarket trolleys. So, after about 10 minutes (or less) Max gets bored, sick of snacking, stands up in the seat and starts yelling, “Out! OUT!” I struggle and distract and try to bribe, but he is single minded and in the end it’s too dangerous – he has to be put on the floor. That’s when the fun begins. I spend the rest of the trip trying to keep him away from bottle displays, towers of tinned beans, and so forth. Today, he went behind the meat counter and had to be dragged out; and in a new low, literally got down on his hands and knees and started clicking switches on one of those refrigerated bins displaying meat. I tried to keep him engaged by having him help me shop, but, he threw things into the trolley ran away from me.

Today, I lost him around the baby wipes. I rounded the corner to pick out a bottle of wine, turned to have a look at him and make sure all the wipes were still on the shelf, and noticed that he was gone. Now, when I’m in the States I suffer a moment of panic if I can’t see my kids. I just think: kidnapping! But, in Ireland, I’m a bit more relaxed. Strangers kidnapping children is virtually unheard of over here (not that we’re crime free).

Anyway, then I started shouting his name, going up and down the aisles. A woman with a boy about Max’s age (sitting quietly in his trolley) started to help me. I was grateful for this. We found Max riding a tricycle for sale.

Later on, I lose Max again for an instant at the check outs. He’s just short – he was actually at the end of the checkout looking at wrapping paper displays. Anyway – the same woman pointed him out.

This woman was then checking out at the counter next to mine. I found out her boy is two and a half as well, and I said, “Oh, look how nicely he’s sitting in his trolley. I wonder why Max isn’t!” As in, ha ha, aren’t you lucky your boy is so well behaved but pity me, poor beleaguered mother, with a lunatic for a son. Further subtext however should imply to her: isn’t he spirited and fabulous?

She turns to me and says, “That’s because I don’t allow him to get out.” I rolled my eyes at her and ignored her for the rest of the grocery visit. Like you have a choice, I thought. You have a Zach on your hands now; but lady if you get pregnant again, the next one might be a Max! Then I thought: I wish a thousand Maxes upon your head.

Maybe I was overreacting a little bit. The bottom line is: I love Max, and I love him the way he is. The destructive nature is his nature, and I think it’s just part of the package. I’m sure I will get some parenting expert commentary on this, but I think that it’s a myth that we have that much control over our kids. With Max, I limit the battles to: you have to hold my hand when we cross the street; you have to wear a seat belt; you can’t hit people; you can’t throw food or breakables. Beyond that, it’s just damage control. I can’t fight all the time with him – and, frankly, I don’t want to kill his spirit. I have adopted a let Max be Max policy since he was born. That meant: unlimited breastfeeding; sleeping as he needed with no schedules, not cajoling him into falling asleep at a certain time so he could make it through the night; walking when he pleased; talking when he pleased; etc. Turns out that even without worrying or using any special devises such as baby walkers, etc., Max learned to walk. He’s talking well (when he’s not blowing raspberries) and, with the assistance of a lot of time outs, he’s learning to control himself. It will take a while, but Max will also learn how to behave in the Supervalu, too.

Actually, a thousand Maxes on that woman’s head would be a blessing.

Lory Manrique-Hyland is a freelance writer and stay-at-home Mom. She has a BFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU and an MA in Creative Writing from City College. She’s also a certified adult educator and teaches fiction at the Munster Literature Centre. Her first novel, Revolutions, was published by the Lilliput Press.

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