It pains me to admit it, but there are days I feel like I’m pretty close to being bested by my three-year-old. Cadence was always a strong-willed child, but man she has nothing on her brother. Sure we’re in that fun three-year-old stage where he’s starting to assert his independence just like all the other kids his age. The difference with Henry is that he’s got a stubborn streak that runs deep, right down into his bones.

Hate to say, it’s most likely genetic, (so I probably only have myself and my ancestors to blame) but that doesn’t make it any easier handle.

See, with this kid, it’s all about making a point. Some days it doesn’t even matter what I’m telling him to do, unless he can make it seem like it’s his idea, he’ll fight me on it, deny it, protest it. Hell, some days he’ll stage a damn revolt over something as simple as me telling him to go to the bathroom. He could be dancing around the room on the verge of peeing his pants and if I happen to tell him it’s time to go before he has made the decision for himself, he’ll spend the next 20 minutes arguing with me about it. It’s downright exhausting.

Take today for example. After last week’s lukewarm soccer experience sans nap, we’ve been trying to prep Henry for today’s game. He tends to do better when you don’t spring things on him in general, so we’ve been reminding him that he has soccer again this week, and telling him the plan is to make sure he gets a good nap in before the 4:00 pm game so he can have lots of energy to go play with his friends.

We take him upstairs around 1:00 when all signs are pointing to him being tired. But, instead of settling down and going to sleep, H-man spent the next two hours singing, counting to 20, saying his ABC’s, talking to his stuffed animals, and acting out random scenes from Bob’s Burgers and Ghostbusters–anything and everything he could think of to keep himself from actually falling asleep. When we went to get him up and start getting dressed for the game, he was all smiles and jokes (of course he was). We even had some fun kicking the soccer ball around in the living room and again when we got to the gym. But we knew it wasn’t going to last.

Like last week, he only had 20-30 minutes of happy energy in him before things started taking a turn. And by the time we got home and I started cooking dinner, H-man was hellbent on making sure he was in charge and that we all knew how unhappy he was that he lost his iPad privileges because he refused to nap. But the real protest started about the time we sat down at the table to start eating. After five minutes or so of messing around, punctuated by the occasional whiny “I don’t wanna eat that,” we gave Henry a warning–take a bite, or you’re going straight to bed.

Henry sat and stared at us, so Stevie started counting.


Henry stared Stevie down and held up one finger.


Henry shot me a glance and held up two fingers.

“Henry, if I get to three, we’re done,” Stevie said, giving an extra moment for Henry to change his mind.

Without even batting an eye, Henry held up three fingers.

And that was it. Stevie took him straight up to bed, while I wrapped up his dinner so we can heat it up for breakfast.

Then, when Stevie came back downstairs, we packed up his toys (well, all but his toy food groups and his talking Anger doll–I figured those two toys might be an interesting conversation starter when we remind him why he punished when he gets up tomorrow).

Someday, when Henry is a teenager or a young adult running around with a pack of friends, I imagine his iron will is going to serve him well. He’s not going to be a pushover. And he’s definitely not going to be one to blindly follow along with the crowd if there is something he disagrees with. That stubbornness is eventually going to be something people really admire in him (I can certainly attest to that), but for now, Stevie and I are just balancing on that thin line between teaching this kid the importance of boundaries without breaking his incredible spirit.

Have we mentioned parenting is exhausting?

Good thing I’m stubborn too.

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