20 Clues Your Child Is Difficult

by Jessica Stark

All kids can be difficult, yes. But not every kid is a difficult child. Friends tell stories about their “little monsters,” and I find myself searching for the punch line. A tantrum here, a blowout there, a 10-minute crying jag. Embarrassing and maddening? Sure. But a difficult child? Nope. Talk to me when your child gets tackled to the ground by a TSA agent. Twice.

You might have a difficult child if…

1. It took your child three months or more to master potty training. However, he mastered the art of the revenge pee on the very first day.

Your timeout chair smells worse than a D.C. parking garage on a hot day. #toddlerjustice

2. Only the first of the three tenets of the Declaration of Independence apply in your house: Life. There is no liberty where you live, and you certainly are not permitted to pursue happiness.

Life under the Imperial Crown doesn’t seem bad at all. Housing a British soldier could not have been as bad as living with an iPad-wielding tyrant. The soldier might have a gun, sure, but the toddler has Caillou. And Barney. And Daniel frickin’ Tiger.

3. When people have asked how your weekend went and you reply, “It was a shitstorm,” you mean it. Literally.

Literally. When your weekend has revolved around enemas, suppositories and Miralax, you may very well have a difficult child.

4. Every doctor in the practice has seen your child. None of them know what’s wrong.

If there’s a condition that afflicts fewer than 20 percent of children, there’s a good chance a difficult child will get it. Unrelenting cough? Check. Patches of skin mysteriously falling off? Check. Nothing life-threatening, just persistent, annoying and undiagnosable? Checkity check check check. Unexplained skin rashes are a favorite among this crew.

5. The 5 s’s did not apply to your child. DID NOT APPLY. You still get the urge to hit something when someone mentions swaddling or The Happiest Baby on the Block.

6. When well-meaning friends ask you when your child first slept through the night, you smile, shake your head and say, “We’re still waiting.” You quietly imagine a scenario in which you rig their home alarm system to go off sporadically at least three times every night for 14 days. Then you give them a three-day reprieve. On the 18th day, you give them your child and say “good luck.” But you don’t mean it. You mean, “Suffer, bitches.”

Or you imagine yourself head-butting them—just hard enough that they can taste a little blood.

7. Your parents kindly suggest you get a hotel room or stay with a friend when you visit, “so everyone can be more comfortable.” Your parents are empty-nesters in a spacious 4-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom house with large, fenced in yard.

8. Upon your his insistence, you’ve taken your child to a store fully outfitted in his Halloween costume. It wasn’t Halloween.

9. You’ve delayed making major life decisions for fear of upsetting your child’s routine.

We are in a house that is approximately 800 square feet, one bedroom and one bathroom too small for us. We don’t like the middle school we’re districted to and aren’t really crazy about the amenities around town. However, neither of us wants to deal with moving our difficult child into a different house. So we plan to retire here. It’s just easier that way.

10. Your sister, neighbor, friend, coworker—basically, anyone in their 20s and 30s—has told you your child is great birth control. After spending only 10 minutes with them.

You have no idea why. You have made motherhood look so rewarding. And glamorous. And downright fun. No idea why they wouldn’t want to join this party.

11. You’ve gone to work with poop in your hair. Knowingly.

Because baby spit-up is for amateurs.

12. Your “diaper run” includes rum, a muddler and simple syrup.

Mommy’s Mojitos: 3 parts rum, 1 part sugar and 2 crushed-the-heck-up lime. And maybe some soda water.

13. Instead of a first birthday bash, you hosted a “we survived it” party.

After hours trolling Pinterest for a cute birthday rhyme about the glory of the first year of parenthood, you realize nothing adequately captures your beautiful bundle of difficulty, so you tap some kegs and celebrate the year’s real MVP—you.

14. You’ve run out of your kid’s back-up pants on a trip to the grocery store. And you always have no less than three pairs of back-up pants with you.

15. You have had to purposely clothesline your kid with your leg, a rope or a hula hoop to keep them from harming another child.

16. Your child has a therapist. Before his second birthday.

A fellow parent to a difficult child once said, “I wasn’t buying that you had a difficult child until you started your story with, ‘His therapist says…’”

17. You have received self-help book recommendations for “Raising Your Spirited Child” from at least two medical professionals, one friend and one complete stranger. And your child’s therapist, of course.

18. The police have arrived at your house, lights flashing, sirens blaring because your child pressed the alarm code while you weren’t looking. And this has happened on more than one occasion.

And your child was under 2 at the time.

19. You let out an audible gasp of glee when your child is the victim on the school incident report instead of the aggressor. The teachers judge you for this, but you don’t care.

Shoot. My smile is nothing to be horrified by, Teach. I plan to Instagram that report. My kid’s not the worst kid! At least not in this situation! #ProudMama

20. You feel closer to the mother of Dennis the Menace than anyone else, ever. Even your BFF or your sister or your spouse.

Mrs. Mitchell is your homegirl.

Again, I say, all children can be difficult, but if the statements above feel foreign to you, you probably don’t have a difficult child. I am not offended that you no longer want to be my friend. I don’t really want to be friends with me. You and I live in different worlds. I get it. I’ll see you on the other side. (I think that’s when the kids are 18+?)

For those of you who get me, who are beside me in this sea (hurricane? minefield? nuclear disaster?) of difficulty, just know we’re in this together. So, technically, we’re not drinking alone when we pour ourselves that second glass of the hard stuff in the third hour of a nap-time negotiation.