I could never be an actor. I’m too self-conscious. I love watching TV and movies, and I admire what many of them are able to do, but that’s not for me. (Not that anyone’s asked!)
My 6-year-old, however, may have a future in the spotlight. Not necessarily because he’s good at pretending (he is) or that he’s a good liar (he’s getting there), but because the dude loves to put on a show!
That is not a compliment. My son is a straight-up drama queen — excuse me, a drama king — and it’s killing me. Just this morning he got upset when I accidentally gave him Mommy’s socks, which look exactly like his socks except for the fact that there is pink on them. Pink is verboten! Despite my attempts to help him grow up without any often-arbitrary gender walls needlessly limiting his experience and perspective, right now the “Ew! Girls!” gene is strong with this one.
What’s not strong with this kid? Shame.
Well, that’s not entirely true. There are some things he’s too shy to do, like speak to strangers or be the center of attention in public, or make Daddy’s dreams come true by accepting a casting assistant’s invitation to be an extra in the David Simon HBO show that was filming on our street last fall. But what he inexplicably has no problem doing? Throwing full-on, fall-to-the-floor tantrums in the middle of stores, and restaurants, and parks, and on sidewalks.
I’m not seeing a lot of shame there. And while I think there is just about no bigger weapon in life than to walk through it without a shred of self-consciousness or shame (counterargument: Donald Trump), sometimes I want my little dude to eat the apple off the forbidden tree so he’ll wake up and realize he’s embarrassing himself. Because these fits need to stop.
Especially since he’s mostly just hamming it up for the attention.
It’s not just a disciplinary thing. The dude bumps his knee, and it’s drama time. Drops his mini muffins? Drama time. Almost trips? Drama time. I haven’t heard this much overwrought howling since MTV canceled that Teen Wolf show I never saw a single second of (Teenage werewolves who look like male models? I think it’s safe to assume there was a lot of overwrought howling).
The challenge, as it is with much of parenting, is to separate my age-based expectations for my son’s behavior from actual legitimate reasons for it. Because while he’s 6 and it’s easy to say that 6-year-olds shouldn’t have these outbursts anymore — and in my worst moments, I do say just that, often with swears! — it’s also understandable because we had a baby nine months ago.
My 6-year-old adores his baby brother; their larger-than-planned age gap allows for something of a grace period wherein they aren’t competing over toys or TV shows, significantly limiting any potential conflict. But the age gap isn’t so big that my son is able to have a life independent from me and my wife, and there is some sibling rivalry happening. He still needs our attention, and when there’s a baby to take care of, he inevitably gets less of it than he’s used to.
It’s easy to forget, especially when you have a baby to take care of, that a 6-year-old who can almost kind of take care of himself (read: can safely play by himself in another room) is still only 6 years old. And that after five years ruling the roost, he’s no longer the only game in town. With all this upheaval, a little behavioral volatility is to be expected.
I just wish it were a little less explosive, a little less public, and a little less often. We are getting there.