My six-year-old is properly opinionated.
Actually, when I say "properly," what I really mean is "outrageously" and he's been like that from birth.
From the moment his bossy wee body first entered the world, he defied medicine by lifting his head to look around, the message in his new-born eyes, "I am the boss, deal with it."
Throughout his six short years, he has taken his own time with whatever task is in front of him. He caused concern, developmentally, as he didn't really bother talking until he was three. Then, when he did talk, it was in fully-formed sentences.
He is the single, most-opinionated, person I know, so although I should look back on his pre talking days with a sense of "how worried I was, " I occasionally reminisce, "Those were the days."
This year, at kindergarten, he has worried teachers by his initial apparent inability to comprehend math - though now he reliably informs me that 62 plus 62 is 124, and dividing is about knowing how many groups of things you would get in a number.
Presently his reading is dodgy. There are certain words that he can read and when he comes across a word, he cannot read, he will look me in the eye and say - without any sense of doubt - "That isn't a word." So at the moment "monkey" "tree" and "umbrella" simply do not exist.
But the weirdest he has always been, is in terms of food.
To say he is picky would be an understatement. More accurately he is, "An ongoing pain in the ass."
He eats: cheese, pasta with no sauce, bread (wholemeal and french), french toast, bananas, apples, carrots, chicken, pizza, salmon, pretty much any kind of fruit bar from Trader Joes, and of course, an insurmountable amount of crap covered in sugar or chocolate.
Going to a restaurant is a drag, because there are only certain things on the menu he will consider as foodstuffs and if they're not on the menu, he would rather starve. (Except, of course, he would never really starve, as I know he keeps a stash of stuff he has pilfered from the kitchen cupboard, in a drawer in his little desk, and under his bed.)
Oh and I've read those articles too about how you just have to "make problem foods into an interesting little model like a train or a smiley face on a plate," and it's all wonderful. And maybe that works for some kids. Maybe.
But for my kid, if you dish him up something looking like a little train, he will look at you with such disdain, that you will be ashamed for even considering yourself to have parenting skills.
He is vehement on foods he will not eat. Vehement, because, as he explains, "They are not food."
Pretty much from the moment he decided he would concede to conversation, he has taken great offense to 'The Peanut".
Randomly, sniffing something placed before him at mealtimes or as snack, he would ask, "Are there peanuts in that?" 'Does this have peanuts in it?"
And, I mean, for no reason.
We're not particularly big on peanuts in our house and I've always gone with the medical advice of no peanuts before 6 anyway, but from time to time, his distrustful little expression would eye me, like we were in an Agatha Christie novel and I was the butler, "Any peanuts here?"
He was complaining of late, that he felt he wasn't being respected at school. When they refused to let squeeze in beside his friend at the 'No peanut table" he announced that his life was being put in danger. I figured that at some point, to keep the peace, I'd get him tested - if not for allergies, for being a cantankerous, wee, know-it-all.
Recently though, that changed.
He had been given a bag of assorted candy from school and squirreled it away in his "secret stash" in his desk drawer, probably so he didn't have to share it with his brother.
It was not a school day and the house was relatively calm, both boys were playing on computers (bad parent, bad parent).
Suddenly my 6 year old let out a weird, loud, gutteral noise and ran out of his room. Almost getting to the bathroom, he started vomiting, his little body spasming with the strength of the wretching.
Both Mark and I ran to get to him. His whole body was rigid, tears down his little red face both from crying and from the sheer force of his gagging reflexes.
We were both trying to work out what had happened?... what to do?... had he swallowed something? should we call an ambulance?
Only 6 years old and so completely small and vulnerable. We were terrified.
"Chocolate. Chocolate." he managed to wheeze.
My other son fished out the chocolate wrapper from the hidden stash. Peanut butter cup.
When my 6 year old stopped vomiting, we gave him water, and as a ruby-red rash started to creep its way rapidly up one side of his body, antihistamine.
Within minutes he was fine, and announced, "Somebody tried to poison me," in an accusatory tone.
We had him allergy tested for peanuts and the result came back, positive. Super positive, in fact.
The allergist told us if he has peanuts the next time, it would likely affect his respiratory system.
Nowadays he has his own EpiPen, he always sits in the 'no peanuts" table at school, and he is much more careful with the calibre of foods he squirrels away ( in the secret stashes in his desk, and under his bed, that none of us are supposed to know about).
And I have conceded. When my six year old dogmatically states that some foodstuffs "are not food, I'll (mostly) accept that for now. Just as he has to accept, that sometimes I'll, by chance, happen upon his stash and announce that some of those foodstuffs are "not real food either".
I hope that just as my eldest's food choices expanded with age, so will it be with my youngest.
Announcing I thought I should get my eldest tested for allergies too, my six-year-old, chipped in.
"I can tell you what Fergus is allergic to."
"Oh what?" I asked, intrigued.
"Sharing," my six-year-old announced. And on that, with a smug little chuckle, he headed off to his room.