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far from the madding crowd

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. And if the source of your failure is your utter inability to sway your three-year-old towards a particular course of action, then best of luck to you; we empathize completely!

Munchkin, whose stubbornness is legendary, reminds D quite a bit of his own mother in this sense. Like her, he seems allergic to following a crowd, preferring always to chart his own course. When she was a young schoolgirl in the Soviet Union, D’s mom recalls, the instructors would line up all the pupils in a line from tallest to shortest before marching them from one place to another. D’s mom, always at the back of the line, would wait until her classmates were practically out of sight before she would start walking – this way she could pretend that she was walking alone.

Munchkin is much the same way. He has his friends, with whom he likes to play, but he’ll be damned if he’ll be forced into any activity simply because other kids his age are involved, even if they seem to be having fun. At a birthday party recently, when all the kids lined up to do an obstacle course, Munchkin went off to play by himself in the sandbox. When all the Embassy kids gathered together for a Halloween photo in their costumes last weekend, our son turned away from the camera and hid his face with his hands. A clown giving out toy balloons to a gaggle of eager children at a July Fourth fair held much less fascination for Munchkin than the cornhole boards that stood unused nearby.

Refusing to have fun and doing his own thing instead of playing with others is fine. The issue that has bedeviled us, however, is Munchkin’s steadfast opposition to certain activities we deem necessary. In particular, he seems dead set against swimming lessons despite the fact that he clearly likes being in the water. We tried in Portland over the summer, but the classes were a total disaster. He’d whimper. He’d whine. He’d watch the other kids get into the water and have a great time, but would adamantly refuse to follow suit. We’re trying again in Kigali, arranging private lessons with a teacher who by all appearances has taught most of the Embassy’s youngsters to swim. We’re a couple of lessons in but the progress to date has been minimal.

During the first session, Munchkin allowed the teacher to hold him in the water but refused to follow most of his instructions and effected the most tortured facial expression he could muster. Afterwards, the Munch had a great time splashing around and playing with a water gun until he got too close to the edge at the deep end of the pool and fell in face first. D fished him out and thanked him for providing a practical illustration for the necessity of swimming lessons. The following weekend, Munchkin was even less cooperative, getting out of the water ten minutes into the lesson and insisting on reading his books instead.

We think it’s great that Munchkin is independent, of course – except when he digs in his heels and turns his independent streak against us.

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