My Ugly Truth About Parenting A Difficult Child

by Lisa Shaw
Originally Published: 
difficult child
Lisa Shaw

I have a confession to make. Revealing this is not easy for me…

“Mommy! Alex is outside. You have to let me play with him,” squealed my 7-year-old through the wide open front door, as a million bugs danced a conga line into my living room.

“OK, Max. But stay in the yard.”

“Why do I have to stay in the yard all the time?”

He was gone before I could answer.

I have a confession to make. Revealing this is not easy for me, but I’m afraid if I keep it in any longer…

“You want me to pick up dinner on the way home?” texted my husband.


I have a confession to make. Revealing this is not easy for me, but I’m afraid if I keep it in any longer, I’ll lose my mind.

“What do you want?”

“Surprise me,” I texted back.

There’s this kid who lives next door. He’s 5. He’s polite, kind, and cooperative. As kids go, he’s damn near perfect.

Even though my only child has most of the qualities that his 5-year-old best friend Alex does, most people don’t get to see that side because he has a touch of what they call oppositional defiant disorder. It’s a complicated diagnosis, but in simple terms, he basically says no to every…

(Ding Dong)

Who the hell is at the door? Maybe they’ll just go away.

…thing. Not just the typical things kids resist like brushing their teeth, taking a bath, or eating their…

(ding dong, ding dong)


“Hello, ma’am, I’m from the blah blah blah…”

When did I become a ma’am?

“Sorry, not interested,” I said, closing the door.

Fucking solicitors.

…vegetables. He also objects to things he really enjoys, like ice cream or going to the movies. And by objects, I mean he will fling-himself-on-the-floor-at-Target-screaming-bloody-murder-so-the-entire-world-thinks-you’re-the-world’s-worst-parent type of objection.

The thing I’m loath to admit is I…

“Mommy! Alex is trying to get me to ride bikes, but I don’t want to ride bikes!”

Fuck my life.

“Max, you don’t have to ride bikes if you don’t want to. You could ride your scooter instead.”

“I hate my scooter,” he screeched like a howler monkey.

He loves his scooter.

“Time to eat. I’ve got Chinese food,” said his dad, having just arrived home.

“No! I hate Chinese food!” Max said, kicking the curb.

He doesn’t.

“I am not eating that!”

I left him there with his father, wondering how many times he’d kick the curb ’til it drew blood or tears.

…hate him.

I hate my son’s best friend, not because he’s bad, but because of how good he is.

How his mother never has to ask him more than once to brush his teeth, comb his hair, or get in the motherfucking bathtub.

How he picks up all of the toys at the end of playtime without arguing.

How he is going off to kindergarten this year and will be that child in the first row sitting crisscross applesauce and hanging on the teacher’s every word, while children like mine are made to sit in a chair 8 feet away from all the other kids because they “fail to obey classroom rules.”

He also won’t be rejected by the other children or teased relentlessly for being “difficult” or a “troublemaker.”

What bothers me most about having Alex around is it shines a Broadway-sized spotlight on my child’s imperfections on a daily basis.


Please let it be tears and not blood this time.

“Mommy! It hurts! I neeeeeeed a Band-Aid!”

Oh my fucking god.

“Okay, I’ll get…”

“I’ll get you one!” Alex interrupts, tearing off toward his house.

He comes running back with an entire box of Band-Aids, leaving a trail of them on the lawn.

It shines the spotlight on me as well, revealing how flawed I am as a person, as a mother, in not appreciating and showing patience toward this 5-year-old child. I just wish it wasn’t my son who was always seen as the surly, disagreeable one. You know?

“You wanna smash Matchbox cars?” asked Alex.

“Sure! Great idea,” said Max.

“Awesome. You’re my best friend in the whoooole world,” said Alex.

“You’re mine too,” said Max.

“I am?” said Alex.

“Yeah, sure you are,” said Max with a grin.

Chinese food straight out of the carton never tasted so good.

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