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Random? I think not.

After dinner the other night, I was putting the dishes in the dishwasher and John was upstairs giving Quinn a bath while Bryce was still sitting at the table eating his bowtie pasta in half-millimeter segments at at time. He had just spent the past hour wailing and gnashing his teeth over the injustice of the fact that John and I wouldn't give him any candy or ice cream until he actually ate the dinner he had been served (and here's the kicker) EVEN THOUGH DINNER WAS SOMETHING OTHER THAN FRENCH FRIES (honestly! It's amazing DHS hasn't come knocking on our door yet). I was focusing on cleaning up dinner and was trying to ignore all the feelings of frustration and pent-up anger I start to feel over Bryce's manipulative dinner time behavior when it comes to exactly WHAT he'll eat, in what increments, at what times, and for what in return. If I focus on something other than a conversation with him, I can manage these feelings without giving myself away to him, and thus losing yet another battle in our constant power struggle. Out of the blue, and in a cheerful voice full of wonder and pride, Bryce got up from the table, came into the kitchen and said, "Mom! There is a sarcophagus outside the computer room at school. A sarcophagus is a box that mummies go in. Mummies are dead people all wrapped up, from ancient Egypt!"

John and I often forget what we are dealing with when it comes to Bryce. We assume that his behavior is not age appropriate and that his intellect IS, even though reality is the opposite. However, there are times when it hits me as if I'm not in the middle of all of this, taking it for granted. Much like the time two-year-old Bryce donned a crown and quite clearly and accurately called himself a "magistrate," I do occasionally snap back to reality and have a clear understanding that a four-year-old talking about a sarcophagus is, um, not really in the realm of "normal" (of course, neither is the sincere inability to put an entire baby spoon, or even half a baby spoon into one's mouth 3 1/2 years past the physical capability to do so without choking - so we've got the whole quirky kid package over here, don't worry). But because the whole talk of sarcophagi kind of threw me, I was distracted enough in my attempt at discreetly bringing it to John's attention that the kid got away without finishing his dinner.

Today was Bryce's last day of school, and it entailed a school-wide picnic and outdoor activities in which the whole family was welcome to partake. When I arrived there on my lunch hour, John was following Bryce around, trying to take his picture with all of his classmates; I caught his eye and he had that "Bryce is acting weird" look. And, yeah. He was. It was like his brain couldn't handle the stimulation of his home world clashing with his school world. Mom and Dad and Mrs. F and my friends all in one location. How can this be? Even though Bryce has accomplished more this year than we thought possible, I found myself thinking, "just act normal for once! SIGH!" When it was time to leave, even though Bryce had basically withdrawn into his I'm-going-to-act-like-I-don't-know-how-to-interact-and-make-my-parents-look-like-nagging-perfectionist-worrywarts-while-they-keep-repeating-themselves-because-they're-assuming-I-just-don't-hear-them-since-when-I'm-at-home-all-ever-DO-is-interact zone, he couldn't bear the thought of leaving before the rest of his friends. The friends he hadn't been talking to the entire time. The friends he'd acted like he hadn't known when John tried to take his picture with them. John and I decided to let him stay, since, oh look! Now he's wanting to be social again! And we are clueless minions of his highness! Later I realized, if he'd just been acting "normal" the whole time we'd been there, we would have insisted that he leave when we told him the first time. His "weird" behavior ended up rewarding him.

Tonight on our way home from dinner, Bryce and I had just finished another confrontational interaction wherein he lost his dessert priveleges for some or other infraction after fair warning. The entire ride home had been full of conversation like, "but I really want dessert!" and "I'm sure you do, and I bet next time you'll make a different choice." and "but you don't understand. I really. WANT. dessert!" and "I speak English, Bryce, and I heard you. I know you want dessert, and I'm sure you're upset that you're not getting any. I'm sorry you made the choice you did. Next time I'm sure you'll remember." Just as we were pulling into our neighborhood, Bryce's voice, still tense and full of implications of injustice, piped up from the back seat: "Mom, I'm going to tell you something strange about me. Something strange about myself." Oh, for the love of god. I braced myself for what was surely about to be an hour-long speech on why his body would wilt and die if I didn't make this one exception and pretend he was perfectly deserving of a pile of M&Ms the minute we stepped foot into our house. This time I wasn't going to be manipulated. No way, no how. I was holding firm. Then he said, "Sometimes? I just don't LIKE people. But then? I start liking them again; it's just so strange! Like my buddy A. at school, I didn't really like him today. But then I started liking him again! It's strange that I'm like that, isn't it?"

I felt like my heart was being ripped out as my ENTIRE LIFE flashed before my eyes, all the experiences and relationships that had rushed at me in innocence and hope and then receded in disappointment as I learned very slowly and naively that people are never what they seem at first, and that friendship and acceptance, while good and necessary, are also often painful and difficult and ultimately have the potential to leave you vulnerably raw and exposed. Nobody had ever actually expressed so simply, accurately, and truthfully what I've felt so many times in my life (and when I told John about Bryce's comment later, he looked at me and said, "who does THAT sound like?"). I pulled the car into the garage, turned around and said, "Bryce, you know what?" He looked at me expecting me to return to our previous conversation and say, "when you go inside, I don't want to hear one more word about dessert" and he had that kind of guarded, near-defeated but still slightly hopeful look on his face and said, "yeah?" I looked at him squarely: "I'M LIKE THAT TOO." His tension melted, the stress in his shoulders released, he smiled and had a look of utter relief on his face that one can only have upon the discovery that there is another human in the world who understands. "You are?!" He giggled in the sheer relief of it all. He wasn't strange after all! Or if he was strange, at least his mom was too!

And, uh...when we got inside, I totally gave him ice cream.

Hey, if he's THAT good a manipulator, he deserved it. And if not, if it was all genuine, which, based on the kids' behavior around other people, I think it was, then he deserved it too. No four-year-old should have to identify and articulate the complexities of human interaction for his dolt of a mother. I mean, really. In fact, I think I should go out and buy him that trampoline he's been asking for.

Uh...wait. What?