I Am Jack’s Manipulative Humor

I Am Jack’s Manipulative Humor


Jack is funny.  I don’t mean he does funny things accidentally.  He does that too, but there’s more.  I mean, at three, he seems to have a decent understanding of how to get a good laugh out of the people he cares about.  This seems to be a natural progression as part of his personality starting to reveal itself to the world.  I could fill this entire blog with examples of the things he does that he knows will make me crack up.  Sometimes they’re things I shouldn’t laugh at, and I try not to.  Sometimes he’s using it to try and get his way.  This is where we are at in the continuing adventure of Jack.

Recently, on a trip to Upstate New York, one of my wife’s friends passingly said to Jack:  “You are just always happy, aren’t you?”  This is far from true.  However, it’s less far off than one might otherwise think.  Jack has been raised in a world of laughter and smiles.  Allison and I make a point of it to deal with our conflicts in a communicative manner.  Past experiences have certainly shown how little is accomplished, and how poisonous for a family, by letting resentment become the prevailing atmosphere.  Even if that resentment doesn’t ever take the form of shouting matches, silent dinners can be just as powerful to both the psyche of a child and his parents.  My own recovery necessitates such self-reflection on a daily basis, as does Allison’s.  We are, after all, on a life long journey toward becoming the best people we can possibly be.  I’m grateful that most of Jack’s life has been filled with healthy people, or at least sick people getting better.  Some one recently told me “True acceptance is believe you could not have had a more perfect past.”  With that in mind, the fact that a lot of my friends and Jack’s playmates are addicts or the family members of addicts is something that I’ve come to treasure.  I think the fact that I view my job as being Jack’s father and the unending gratitude I have for my life today, have helped shape my son into a pretty amazing little person.

Where was I before I got into this “I’m so zen and cool” tower?  Oh, yeah.  Jack.  Which is the point of this whole website, right?  I mean, it’s CERTAINLY not about me.  He said knowingly.  Jack has always been a self-soother.  In most activities, this came pretty naturally.  It was forced upon him, by us, in relation to his sleeping habits.  We, as long time readers will recall, used the Cry It Out technique a few years ago at a time of desperation.  Jack had been waking up every 20 minutes wondering where his bottle was, or where his mommy or daddy’s arms were.  When people ask if I recommend this technique, I honestly say “I don’t know.  It worked for us.  It worked for Jack.”  I think some kids you can put in a crib and they’ll just take to sleeping.  Jack was not that kid.  We had, in using our instincts, gotten him to a point where he was looking for outside comfort, rather than being able to comfort himself.  He was looking for an external solution to an internal problem?

Hm.  Why is this starting to sound all too familiar?

Like any three year old, Jack wants things that he cannot have.  Some of these things are irrational, most are not.  Truly, and kind of sadly, most of what he wants is simply TIME.  He wants more time to play with his trains.  He wants more time at the park.  I don’t think he so much doesn’t want to take a bath, as it is he doesn’t want to stop doing what he’s currently doing.  So, in the continuing theme of following in his father’s footsteps, Jack has begun to use his personality to manipulate.  I know.  I know.  This is pretty THREE YEAR OLD 101.  I’m not commenting on the rarity of it, just the fascination I’m getting from seeing him work his game.  Also, the stark difference between how well it works on his mother versus me.  Allison is the nurturer.  She cannot help but biologically fill that role.  In my opinion, she will always be the one that is quicker to pick Jack up during a cry.  To put a Band-Aid on a wound that I’ve deemed not worthy of one.  There’s chemicals at work here that I cannot fathom and don’t try to.    I am his father.  I fill the authority role and I’m kind of good at it.  Not great, but kind of good.  That’s the best I can hope for, really.  I’m kind of good at a few things and raising a son is one of them.

As a drug addict, manipulation was where I lived for a long time.  So, I can see through the cracks in my boy’s facade.  Here’s an example:  Jack likes to physically lean on things and people sometimes.  He can be a bit lazy and, well, he’s three.  His legs are tiny and growing.  Once in a while, before bed, he’ll lean on me to try and get me to put his pajamas on for him.  I’ll say:  “Jack, put your pajamas on.”  And he’ll look like he’s gonna make a fussy face before shaking it off and going:  “But I wanna give you a hug.”  He does this type of thing a lot.  Say he hurt his hand when we’re trying to get him to brush his teeth.  He’s pretty good on the distraction tactic.  Now, I don’t fall for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m toss away a free hug.  Or that I’m going to be an oak tree.  Jack is growing and part of growing is respecting him enough to make mistakes and try to help him course correct.  So, when he says this I give him the biggest hug in the world, pull him away, look him in the eye and say:  “Ok.  Now it’s time for you to put on your pajamas like a big boy.”

Because he’s NOT a big boy.  We tell him he is and Jack likes to think he is.  That is, when he’s not longing for the days of babyhood.  But, for all intents and purposes, Jack is still very little.  I don’t expect him to be anywhere but where he is.  I’ll do my best to meet him there and hopefully we can get a little further on this road together and, in all likelihood, share a few laughs on the way.

Thanks, and be well.

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