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If your two-year-old refers to himself as a magistrate, you're in trouble.

When I was in the hospital having Bryce, one of the labor and delivery nurses said something I'll never forget. My pregnancy had been uneventful other than the outrageous weight gain and swelling from the summer heat, but the labor really caught the doctors' and nurses' attention. For some still unidentified reason, by the time we got to the pushing stage, Bryce's heart rate went down with every push, and took too long to come back up. I don't know about you, but when a doctor is "worried" about something, I'm terrified - I mean, they do this for a living and know the ups and downs of most scenarios - if something worries THEM, it must be pretty bad. During the three hours of pushing, then waiting for his heart rate to return to normal, then pushing, then waiting, then pushing, then almost having a heart attack wondering what was going on, the nurse at my side said, "Oh, he's going to be ONE OF THOSE kids."

I shot a half curious/half offended look at her, and she said, "You know, really touchy, has to have everything a certain specified way, always in control...? Some of them just come out that way." At that time, I was in the process of being prepped for a last minute decision c-section, so I was really in no frame of mind to ask for more details. As it turns out, I wouldn't need them. Nothing she could have told me would have possibly prepared me for Bryce. Besides, what little she did say, I just brushed off. "She's just jaded, she's been doing this for too long. The cord is probably wrapped around his neck. MY kid isn't going to be a touchy, intense, control freak. Who does she think she is, anyway?"

Bryce's early infancy was frought with challenges. He screamed at nap times, didn't want to be held or rocked, but didn't want to be left in his crib. He didn't latch properly, so the only way I could continue to nurse him was to pump after every single feeding - I spent half of my day hooked up to the pump or to him (I finally gave up right before returning to work after maternity leave, knowing it would be impossible to continue that way). We couldn't take him out in the early days because he would scream inconsolably if his routine was off by a smidgeon (and let's face it, no matter how much you love your kid, it's freakin' embarassing when you're in the middle of a mall holding a shrieking banshee with a confused, terrified look on your face...that was us). He smiled only at certain people, and it took a lot to make him laugh - he always seemed to be analyzing everyone - and he was so wide-eyed, we actually referred to him as the crazy-eyed baby. No matter what the situation, if it was new, he seemed to take in every single detail, and then get overwhelmed and start the screaming again. When it came time to introduce solids into his diet, he gagged like we were trying to poison him. It took visits to speech and occupational therapists to get him to eat plain cheerios. We spent a year beside ourselves with confusion - what is wrong with this kid?

When he started walking, he never "toddled". He went from crawling to running with no stumbles or trips - it was odd. He would constantly do comparisons - if he saw an elephant on TV, he would disappear, then show up in a few minutes with whatever toy elephant he could find, show it to us, then look back at the TV. We were stupid and didn't realize it at the time, but he was trying so hard to communicate with us: "Hey you big people, look! I know what an elephant is, see?! See!?" Our replies were always "Oh, what have you got there? A toy? Why do you keep pointing to the TV? And back at the toy in....your....hand......Oh." Every time we'd run into someone at the grocery store who thought he was cute, he tried in vain to communicate something about himself; the nice old ladies would say, "Hi, cutie. How old are you?" and instead of holding up one finger like most parents teach their kids to do, Bryce would say, "Buzwtcheer!!" which was his one-year-old version of "I like Buzz Lightyear." The old ladies would look confused, pat him on the head, and move on. He was thinking, "When I can talk, I'm going to make all of you wish I couldn't, you morons."

Right after Quinn was born, he was playing with some alphabet refrigerator magnets at my mom's house. He had always just stacked them up, put them on her fridge, taken them back off and put them in a bowl, etc. So when he triumphantly called out "W!" and held up the W, we were perplexed, but thought it was a fluke. I asked him if he could find the A, and he did. Then the B. Then X, Z, Q...he was able to identify 16 of the 26 letters that night. We didn't know how he did it, and still have to assume he'd picked it up from Sesame Street or some such programming. We certainly didn't teach it to him, because we didn't even know it was possible to do that with an 18-month-old. By the next week, after I identified the 10 letters he didn't know off the top of his head, he could point out all of them at random. I started looking in all the baby and toddler books I could find, but there was nothing about letter or number recognition. In the two- or three-year stage there would be mention of basic shapes, but nothing about this. We started thinking this was another weird aspect of Bryce's nature, along with the infancy and baby issues we'd been through with him.

By his second birthday, he was starting to freak us out. His vocabulary had exploded around the same time we made the alphabet discovery, and he was speaking in full sentences, counting, identifying upper and lower case letters, numbers, shapes (such as pentagon and oval), and colors (like white, brown, and gray). He had also re-discovered the power of the scream, a scream that could break glass for miles around. He was speaking well, but could never seem to communicate the complexity of whatever it was he was trying to say - especially if it involved feelings of frustration...and so he would scream a scream I've never heard re-created anywhere else: mouth wide open, head trembling from the force, face purple from exertion, eardrums bleeding for miles around, dogs from the surrounding tri-state area running towards him. It's amazing his head didn't explode that year. Luckily his vocabulary continued to grow exponentially, and once he could say words like "frustrated", the screaming dissipated. This was the time period where he put a construction paper crown on his head, walked up to me, and said, "Mom, I am a magistrate." His pediatrician recommended full-time school at his second year check up, but we didn't think we could afford it, so we put it out of our minds.

By his third birthday, he was memorizing movie scenes and re-creating them - complete with foreign accents, costume changes, and frighteningly accurate dance moves. He required constant interaction and would take most of John's attention during the day asking questions that ranged from, "Does that lady have dogs because she doesn't have any children?" to "Where is God?" You can't just ignore him; he's persistent the way tornadoes are windy - he has no problem repeating himself to infinity. At his third year checkup, the pediatrician again recommended more schooling, specifically a school geared towards gifted kids. This time we took her a little more seriously and found a school that is used to high-maintenance, intense, challenging, controlling, and infinitely entertaining kids like Bryce. They told us they not only expected, but appreciated kids like this. This was a huge relief to us after Bryce's part-time pre-school teachers had given us what felt suspiciously like a reprimand when they told us he didn't play with the other kids, and was constantly wanting to talk to the teachers. (Oh, what a pain! A kid who wants to TALK TO US. Tell his parents!)

Right after he turned four, he started attending this new school, and has been thrust into his first real intellectual challenges ever. I felt a little guilty putting him there at first. He's only four years old, and he's basically in a kindergarten (first grade?) class - all day, every day, writing, math, science, music, art, Spanish, etc. But John had to get some work done, people!! We had to do it! Four years of answering questions and keeping intensity at bay with chocolate milk and cartoons is more than any sane person can take. Besides, these teachers allow Bryce to talk to them, and the other kids play with him because they are just as quirky and intense as he is. And I feel a certain kinship to the other parents knowing that they probably went through a a freakish few years at home with their kid, too.

When I think about what we've gone through so far with Bryce, it's hard to believe how right that labor and delivery nurse was. Oh, and the cord wasn't wrapped around his neck after all. They have no idea what the problem was. Well, the nurse knows, I think.

Indeed. He is one of those. And we love our little magistrate.