updated 26 Mar 2013, 07:50
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Taming our little caveman
by Clara Chow

The buffet was in full swing in the hotel dining room, with the civilised clinking of cutlery. Music wafted up from a band playing cheesy covers in the lobby.

Suddenly, shouts of "Mr Lee! Mr Lee!" rang out, puncturing the peace.

"Hello, Mr Lee! Mr Lee! HALLOOOOO, MR LEE!"

The noise was coming from the mouth of my three-year-old son, Lucien. Tired of munching on satay and dessert, he had become bored and fidgety. That was when he spied a waitress that he thought was his kindergarten teacher, Mrs Ee.

In his strange, little gender-fuzzy mind, she was Mr Lee. Hence, hello, Mr Lee.

The waitress in this case of mistaken identity smiled politely and inched away with her pitcher of water. Not satisfied until she acknowledged him, Lucien continued calling out to her, standing up on his seat and waving enthusiastically.

We tried to tell him that: a) She was not Mr Lee, and b) "Mr Lee" is actually pronounced Mrs Ee, to no avail. If this was a political press conference, Lucien would have got the Prime Minister's attention for sure.

The Supportive Spouse and our elder son shielded their eyes in embarrassment. I started shaking with uncontrollable laughter.

"He's crazy," I whispered, wiping tears of mirth from my eyes.

It seems that every family has its maverick. In ours, it is undoubtedly Lucien - the one who takes off on a whim, disappearing into the crowds at suburban malls, leaving us chasing worriedly in his wake; who is all smiles at strangers one minute, and muttering "stupid!" angrily at passers-by the next; who picks his nose with a vengeance in public.

While most little boys identify with heroes - whether super-charged, ninja or mutant - Lucien prefers the villains, fascinated with a collection of Lego snakes with odious qualities.

Reading up on crazy toddler behaviour on the WebMD website, I was struck by a particularly apt quote from a paediatrician: Toddlers are like cavemen.

"All of us shut off our left brain when we get upset," said Dr Harvey Karp. "We become less eloquent, less patient, less logical. We call that 'going ape'. Toddlers start out 'ape', and, when they get upset, they really go Jurassic on you."

It made a lot of sense, now that I think back to all those times when I wondered if Lucien had Tourette's syndrome.

Perhaps, Lucien's behaviour is new to me, because his elder brother has always been less prone to such impulsiveness, seeming to have skipped from infanthood to adolescence by age six.

My job as a parent - and our job as a family - is to help tame our little caveman: to help him understand that some behaviour is just not "on" and to remind him when he forgets.

When I pick him up from school or Chinese enrichment class, his teachers tell me that he marches to the beat of his own drum, wandering around the class and sometimes refusing to do as he is told.

My wonderful, stubborn, strong-minded boy risks not learning anything, as he resolutely refuses to hold a pencil properly to practise simple strokes. That is why we are taking him to see a child-behaviour therapist today, to find out how we can help him.

Still, I'm loathe to completely domesticate and mute my younger son into a "normal" member of society. I am amazed every day by his unique way of looking at things.

When my father, his gong gong, comes home, he runs to my mum and yells: "Grandma! Grandma! Your friend is back!"

It tickled us no end at first. But it also set me thinking: The boy may have got it right instinctively. After all, what is a husband but a lifelong partner and friend?

I may never fully understand Lucien, but maybe he has no problem understanding the world already.

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