My son tends to obsess about certain things, including but not limited to: whether it's McDonald's night or not, how much he hates school (even though he gets straight A's), playing Mario Kart, wanting his pet hamster Mimi to be in her hamster ball (No Zach, she pees and poops with reckless abandon), Legos, creating complex miniature golf courses from Tinker Toys in my parents living room, wearing his Spiderman/Viper costume everywhere, magnets, stacking objects, making sure he has a washcloth over his face at bathtime so not one drop of water gets on his face, practicing walking on crutches in case he breaks a leg, knowing the definition of every word he hears, reading billboards out loud in the car, making sure he has two packs of poptarts for breakfast every morning plus an extra pack "just in case", tearing down and reconstructing his marble run, making sure everything he he eats has been warmed in the microwave including granola bars and applesauce, climbing to the top of our doorways using only his feet and hands, spies, knights, dinosaurs and insects.
He is also the sweetest, kindest, most loving, thoughtful, sensitive, bright, funny and generous little boy you will ever meet.
At first, Zach's obsessions appeared quirky, and who doesn't love a bit of quirk? Then, after the 47th Friday night in a row that he had asked if it was McDonald's night 16 times in 27 minutes, the quirk began to wear off. Seriously. By the time he screamed for 13 minutes in sheer terror when a drop of water landed on his cheek during bath time, I had definitely had enough.
Two days ago it hit me. He got it from ME.
Growing up, I never saw myself as obsessed. Until I wrote this post, I never even realized I'm obsessive. To an annoying degree at times. Seriously, I had no idea. I always have seen myself as, "determined", "strong-willed", "single-minded", "tenacious" or "driven". Obsessing was what was going to keep me safe from the Killer Bees, even if I was blind and deaf. And obsessing has seen me through many difficult times. I never give up, I will fight for what's important with my dying breath and I can be unswerving in digging up the truth from my kids and the sex-offender clients I used to treat.
Being obsessive got me into and through graduate school, because there was NO WAY I was going to be stuck with nothing but a B.A. in Sociology. It provided for me and my kids when I was married to an addicted spouse who was usually unemployed. I got TWO jobs and sold ebay on the side because there was NO WAY I was going to lose my house and not provide for my children. It kept me focused when I was going through foreclosure and provided me with the ability to be so completely determined over a two year period that last summer Citi modified my loan. At 5%. For 30 years.
It helped me be the best therapist I could be, and I got more confessions out of sex-offenders than you would ever believe. I think they confessed just so I would leave them alone. I wouldn't let up until they told me every last thing they had done, thought about doing and planned on doing in the future. They could see the relentlessness in my eyes, and I think it freaked them out. I once made an adult sex-offender who had done 15 years of prison time cry in front of his parole officer. He cried and he admitted that his victim had been telling the truth. Prison couldn't break him, other therapists couldn't break him and his parole officer couldn't break him. But me and my obsessive personality, we broke him. It was a beautiful thing.
No, it wasn't a beautiful thing. It was simply what I expected.
My obsessive personality has also caused me a lot of heartbreak. It caused me to miss out on the fantastic, beautiful and joyous miracle that was the first 6 weeks of my daughter's life. Because I was too busy trying to figure out why she was crying and what I could do about it and when it would stop and how would I prevent it next time. And I can never get that back. I'm writing a journal for her, love letters to her, actually. I started it when she was 6 weeks old. I have almost no memories of her first 6 weeks, and the memories I do have are negative and painful. They involve crying (her and me), fear, frustration, anger, depression and hopelessness. But thanks to the miracle of Paxil, it got better. So much better.
My obsessive personality is a blessing and a curse. It allows me to see possibilities everywhere, and I can problem solve the sh*t out of anything. I can also get so caught up in the whys, hows, whens and whats that I become completely miserable, and annoying to the people who love me.
So. What to do, what to do? I know what I won't do. I'm going to stop getting angry at Zach for doing something that he truly can't help. Sure, I'll still get annoyed, but at least I can stop telling myself he's able to help it, anymore than I could when I was 7. Or 32. Or 43. I'm going to stop asking him to just trust me, dammit! Because no matter how much he wants to stop asking, questioning, wondering and bothering, he just can't. Not yet.
So if you'll excuse me, I need to go watch my son play Mario Kart 7 times in a row. Right after I watch him build "a very complicated bridge" out of the Wii balance board, two halves of a case that contained giant building blocks, and a stepstool.