Posted by on Jun 6, 2010 | 3 comments

My child is smart.  All of my children are smart, actually, but Jack is a little beyond his age.  He’s always tested on the level of a child several years his senior, and we’ve known since his infancy that he knows a lot more than he lets on. 

I know what you’re thinking.  Every parent thinks their child is “gifted.”  Each boy and girl at the playground can do something faster and better than yours (and did it much earlier).  Every preschool child is learning at a super-human pace and prepping for college.   It’s a never-ending game of one-upmanship, this parenting gig.

But seriously, Jack is pretty intelligent.  He has always caught on to things quickly, whether we liked it or not.  We’ve always known that if you show him how to do something he’ll do it until it’s mastered.  This can include mundane tasks such as coloring, building castles and folding paper airplanes, but also extends to opening child-proof gates, mastering electronics and starting the van.  Jack has kept us on our toes, to say the least.  He’s also taught us to hide the machinations of anything we’re not ready for him to do yet, like those gates.  Too late on that one.

Jack is also pretty stubborn.  He gets it honestly, from both of his parents.  He won’t do anything that he doesn’t want to do, or isn’t his idea.  Being stubborn is not unique to my 4 1/2-year-old, I know; it’s not even unique to autism.  My 3-year-old just today threw a royal fit because he was not allowed to walk from the elevator to the van by himself (mainly due to the fact that he had also thrown a fit because he wanted a toy we had left in the apartment and had planted himself squarely on the garage floor).  My almost-18-month-old son will scream and throw everything he’s offered if it’s not exactly the same thing his older brothers have.  Believe me, I know from stubborn children.

My eldest child, however, is apparently aiming for a world record of stubbornness.  He is elevating being bull-headed to an art form.  An art form that can only end in some sort of disaster, either for us or himself.  Jack focuses his stubbornness on things he believes he can control.  I get this completely.  When there are so many things you can’t control, you grasp at whatever you can.  In Jack’s case, it’s behaviors.

I firmly believe that Jack was able to speak all along, just chose not to.  The fact that he started speaking within two weeks of speech therapy – with no “baby talk” – attests to that.  I also know that he was able to take bites of food long before he let us stop cutting everything into little pieces (around two and a half).  But now, at 4 1/2, he’s hanging on to one last bastion of babyhood.  He won’t give up his diapers.

That’s not entirely true.  Jack wears underwear from the time he wakes up until it’s time for bed.  He has, however, instituted some pretty strict rules for his toileting.  If he’s home, he’ll go potty whenever he needs to.  He’s proficient in doing everything himself.  If we’re anywhere but home, though, forget it – Jack is a camel.  He won’t even try.  That kid will hold it for an entire day rather than use any facility that isn’t home.

For those of you out there (and I know you’re out there) who also abhor using public facilities, let me assure you this is less than convenient.  He won’t use the potty at school, and he won’t use it at Target (you know that’s a  problem).  He wouldn’t use the Queen’s potty, even if there were no loudspeaker and it was really, really nice.  Heck, he won’t even pee in the bushes like his brother has grown to enjoy.

As for poopy?  Forget it.  That’s where the diaper comes in.  He won’t do it in a bathroom, no matter where that bathroom is.   He’ll hold it as long as it takes for us to give in and put on a diaper.  Without fail, once the diaper goes on, Jack goes, too. 

Why do I think Jack is being stubborn as opposed to not being ready?  Because a) he’s gone potty in public toilets before but stopped, and b) he’s gone poopy in the potty before and stopped.  He just decided one day that these behaviors were for losers, and quit.  We’ve tried everything.  Our ABA has tried everything.  I’ve spent more money than I care to admit on prizes and incentives that Jack ultimately decides he doesn’t want or need (after getting truly excited about them).  He just doesn’t want to do it, and until he decides otherwise, the game is on.

The hitch in all of this is the fact that we’re moving to Canada in two weeks.  We’re not only leaving the only potty Jack will use willingly, we’re taking a week to drive up there.  That means hotels and lots of public restrooms along the way.  We’ve tried telling him they won’t let us into Canada unless he figures out the potty and poopy dilemma, but I’m not sure he believes it.  The bottom line is we’re going, whether he’s ready or not.

I’m really hoping it doesn’t come to a trial by fire.  I know that forcing Jack to do something he doesn’t want to do never ends well.  I want nothing more than to mark this post with an update and a “little victories” tag, but I honestly have no idea how long it will take for that to happen.  It could be tomorrow, or it could be months from now.  It’s all up to Jack.

And I can only wonder what he’ll focus his stubborn streak on next.

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