Of all the misguided notions I had about parenting prior to having my son, one is the most delusional: that I could shape the person he was. AHAHAHAHA.
I thought that, as a primary caregiver and default moral compass, I could mould my son to my liking. I thought he would be like a lump of clay, and I could manipulate him into a beautiful and useful vessel, filled with virtue. He would be good and wise, a tiny sage, given to knowing nodding and wry chuckling at the ways of the world, stroking his silvery grey beard in bemusement like…a wizard… I think I thought my son would be a wizard.
He is not a wizard. He is nobody other than himself. He makes me wonder if we are born perfectly self-assured, secure in our identities, and then it ebbs away over time until we are a mass of neuroses and insecurities who have children to make better versions of ourselves.
In any case, he is not very malleable. At all. Sure, we can give positive reinforcement to behaviours we like and penalise for those we don’t, but in order for this to work, he has to care what we think. He has to require our approval and be pained by our disappointment. But, he doesn’t appear to be especially moved by either. He calibrates his own moral compass according to his daily whims and his value system is more like a maze. He is guided by his personal overlord, Optimus Prime, and answers to no mortal.
As parents, we are merely hosts, here to feed and shelter him on his path to glory/world domination/complete self-determination. He will be the first pre-schooler to be legally emancipated from his parents. He will change the locks to the house and negotiate control of our finances. He will give us curfews. We will have to ask him to be excused from the table at mealtimes.
And he will dismiss us with a wave of his tiny hand, smiling his little knowing smile and stroking his silvery grey beard, content in the knowledge that he rules us and always will, and we were fools to think it could be any other way.