Independent. Determined. Fearless.

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I think the best part of having children is that they teach you so much about yourself. I spent about an hour on the phone with my mother yesterday – international long distance, I might add – once again lamenting my youngest son’s stubborn streak, when she reminded me of a story I shared with her a few years back.

Has he gotten you trained yet?

That is the question my mother posed when I was finished relaying the latest incident in my youngest son’s potty training saga. She relishes each new tale with an evil sort of glee, nodding in remembered pain, the words “pay back” perched deliciously on her lips. I can’t argue with her. If there was ever reincarnation from mother to child, it’s me and my baby. Of course, I would never admit such a thing to his grandmother. But he has the same independent spirit that my mother requested that my kindergarten teacher temper but not break. The same fearless attitude that found me playing beneath a clothing rack in Walmart and had my son wandering happily through the church sanctuary this past Sunday, flipping casually through pew books and searching for his grandfather who was four hours away in St. Louis. The same determined will that allows my son – through begging and bribing – to hold his urine until his bladder damn near bursts just to mock me.

Independent. Determined. Fearless.

There are times I forget that he’s just like me. On one particular Sunday, in fact, when I was home and infused with a fresh injection of the Word, the sermon had centered around God’s mercy for his children and how that should translate in our everyday lives. So after almost 30 minutes of sitting on the potty without success, I was feeling merciful (among other things) and took pity on my son’s red-ringed bottom. And from my merciful position, a great idea was born.

Ready for this?

Me, in all my merciful ignorance, figured since he didn’t want to pee in anything but a diaper, letting him run around bare-bottomed shouldn’t present a problem. Well, the ending is a lot more predictable now. No more than two minutes into his period of sweet freedom, my oldest son’s eyes were rounder than saucers as a ring of wetness bridged the gap between him and his brother – and it took all I had to remember my merciful stance.

Independent. Determined. Fearless.

Days later, my oldest son would still tug occasionally on my sleeve to remind me that Junior peed on the rug. Of course, he couldn’t remember to keep his Legos out of the toilet two minutes after I told him, but then it was and still is much more important to keep the spotlight of Mommy’s wrath on the wrong doings of his brother. You can ask my older sister all about that.

Now all I can do is hope that his teachers are as understanding and patient with him as they were with me. And I can only wish, as my mother did countless times when I was growing up, that my baby has a child just like him. Interestingly enough, the traits that I fear will make me tear my hair out now are exactly the ones I want him to have when he’s older.

Independence. Determination. Fearlessness.