Sometimes you think you have it all figured out and then life throws you a curveball. Sound familiar? Like you know exactly where you’re headed but there’s construction so you have to take another route; or you make a foolproof plan and then something fools you. Welp, that’s exactly how I feel with child #2. The most smart yet sassy, funny yet annoying, tough yet sensitive, mean yet lovable 5 year old there ever was. Sound slightly familiar-you already know how this story goes? Or maybe not interested in stories of a snot nosed pre-schooler? I get it- everyone has stories to tell about their kid to some extent. But hopefully I can share with you some insider insights on living with a 42 inch tyrant or at the very least, provide you with some laughs at my expense.
With that being said, please let me formally introduce you to Frank Anthony Maggio: Frank the Tank, Little Cheech, Frankie Bubbas, Frankie Tony, and as I like to kindly refer to my storytelling episodes involving his antics- #lifewithfrank.
Imagine all your best and worst qualities rolled up into 38 lbs of fiery fierceness. I’m talking hugs, punches, kisses, kicking, laughter and screams….all.day.long. and sometimes, all.at.once. The one break in the chaos usually comes when he’s zoned into his IPad, headphones on, more often than not banging his head against the couch repeatedly while humming-that kind of constant repetition that one might associate with a spectrum disorder. Yes, I said it, Tim and I have questioned if this kid has Autism before. I mean he doesn’t. He’s just a creature of habit, likes consistency, is determined and stubborn AF but sometimes we wonder...his extreme behaviors, his uncontrollable outbursts, all while being way smarter than we anticipate makes us raise an eyebrow...are we raising a Rainman??
Haha. No. Just kidding. All jokes aside. We have an extremely smart, extremely opinionated and strong-willed 5 year old on our hands and we’re learning everyday with every new twist how to raise him. With that being said, let me walk you down some of my favorite memories of the past 5 years and let’s see how you might think to handle these unique situations with Frank the Tank.
Let’s start from the beginning: newborn and infant sleep habits. Some babies are just naturally good sleepers and some are not. Some you have to train or just deal with until they outgrow it. Frank had his own sleep agenda at this age. While he did out grow most of it and I can say he is a good sleeper now, those first- oh let’s say 18 months or so, were a doozy. So your baby doesn’t sleep- not an authentic issue. But what if your baby was so against sleeping that every time you tried to ‘train’ him to sleep by keeping a consistent bed time, having a bedtime routine, not running to pick him up at every first sound of his cries, he countered you with barfing. Yep, puking anything in his stomach all over himself, his crib, the mattress, any bumpers, sheets or blankets, and of course the carpet. No exaggeration- this kid would fight bedtime so hard that anytime we put him in bed and HE wasn’t ready, he’d make himself throw up. As a baby who could only roll, it was terrifying. As a standing baby it was exhausting. And as an almost toddler it was infuriating. And let me add, this happened at nap time too. Or even, ‘let’s have him rest in a pack ‘n play at a friend’s house while the adults hang out’ time (yes-in their bedroom, all over the pack ‘n play, the stuffed animal their daughter had given him to snuggle with and the carpet underneath where he was set up). The late night baths and washer cycles we went through during that first year and half remain uncountable.
Adding onto bedtime trauma, once he did start going to bed on his own, it wasn’t without a little unique self-soothing. I can remember him still being in a crib and hearing a banging sound on the crib rails or even a muffled bang against the mattress most nights. This kid would use that same repetitive head bang I mentioned above to soothe himself to sleep-either sitting with his back against the crib and banging the back of his head against wood railings or lifting his torso so high up off the mattress while face down that his body would slam down like a rubber band with every repetitive arch he made, all with his eyes closed. It was horrifying. We thought this damn baby was going to give himself a concussion. But all the doctors said it was normal….so we let it run its course. Him having sleepovers with family as a toddler were exhausting for whoever was taking care of him. That kid could keep you up at night with how loud his banging and humming was all while being mostly asleep himself. Exorcist-like if you will, or so his aunts would say. It was quite mystifying once you got past how freaking weird it was.
Moving past his sleep habits, Frank walks somewhere on the tightrope between determined and stubborn and just straight up OCD. His two largest obsessions I would say are candy and presents. Sounds pretty common for a kid, right? Who doesn’t love eating candy and getting presents? I mean maybe it’s pretty common for some adults too. But this kid knows how to take it to a whole other level. His first true experience, and the beginning of his candy compulsion, started on the first Halloween he was able to trick o’ treat while walking on his own...so about 22 months old I’d say. This kid could barely say the words but the way his face would light up after each drop in his basket was so fulfilling. And the excitement of wanting to eat a piece from the basket as soon as the candy hit the bottom of the plastic was so cute. Until it wasn’t. He was the last man standing that night. Not wanting to go back home. Not putting that bucket down to eat dinner or change into pajamas. And since that day I can confidently say that there has never not been a random bucket filled with candy in our snack closet and never a meal where a side of candy isn’t the compromising argument. Yet, he’s actually become quite a candy critic through it all. He’s a big fan of Mike ‘n Ike’s, loves a good Sour Gummy Worm, and is quite impressive with his Pez loading skills.
And his obsession with presents, you ask? I have a photo that sums it all up but let’s just say, going to birthday parties royally sucked for us as mom and dad. The screaming and fighting and just pure not understanding that it’s not HIS birthday so those are not HIS presents, was exhausting. But when his birthday did come around? Oh you better believe he counted every damn present and asked for more. So much that when his birthday was over, he would pull out a bag of old toys, grab a roll of wrapping paper and tape from the junk drawer and lay it on my lap to wrap him some more presents to open. This went on for a few days before I ran out of paper and had to pretend the store was out too. I had no other way but to tell him a little white lie!
Fast forward a little bit to touch on some of his funny quirks:
From when he was determined his little brother’s name was going to be Luigi- and not from Super Mario Brothers- but from the Disney movie Cars. Yes, he wanted his baby brother to be named after the little yellow Fiat 500 voiced by Tony Shalhoub that owned the tire shop in town.
Or how he’s obsessed with Halloween costumes and will petition why he needs a new one every couple days during the entire month of October.
How he refuses to wear shorts and short sleeve shirts stating he must wear his “hot pants and hot shirt” no matter the weather out. So when you see a red-headed kid in full pants and shirt, possible Spiderman costume atop, cruising down the street on his bike-you know who it might be.
Or let me mention how at 5 years old he still asks, ...er demands, “warm-hot milk”. Yes, this preschooler will only drink warm milk, an exact 45 seconds in the microwave warm. Not 30 seconds luke warm, or 50 seconds almost hot, 45 seconds warm-hot.
And to top off his spectrum behaviors, borderline OCD habits, and silly traits, he is also smart as shit. I mean, I know, I get it, I’m biased and every parent thinks their kid is the smartest. And sure he’s still learning some letters and numbers, I mean when I say he’s smart as a whip, it’s more like streetsmart, as smart as the mean streets of being 5 years old can make you that is. He can’t read yet or doesn’t write concertos but he can remember the craziest details of a story, his vocabulary is way too big for his own good with the proper use of words like 'adjacent' and 'satisfying', his expressions and mannerisms reflect an adult at times, and the way he can manipulate the crap out of me and Tim is unparalleled. I’m telling you, this little little guy has us wrapped around his finger and he knows it!
I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if he wore us too thin as a baby that we already gave in to his demands at his youthful age of only 5 years old; or if we were blind-sided with his temperament after having a laid back first child that we were lost in the ways to set boundaries with our bully child; or if he’s just plain old smarter than us! Either way, I’m here to tell you that if you too have an authoritarian child- You are not alone. I I don’t have any freaking answers for you but I mean I’m here, and I’m still surviving.
We get through the parking lot tantrums, the biting mischief with his baby brother, the uncontrollable red faced Hulk transformations that come and go with some compromise, too much giving in, and a whole bunch of hugs, kisses, smiles, I Love You’s, cuddles, pleases and thank yous, in between it all. We may not be doing it all right, but when he clearly identifies the dinosaur types I can’t name or gets a good report of sharing at daycare then I know we’re doing alright.
Do you have a Frank the Tank? I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve survived these crazy kid years.
*If his stories entertain you, feel free to search his hashtag on social, as well as follow for future stories.