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Published on October 7th, 2013 | by Richard Black


“You’re Driving Your Mother Crazy,” How to Put Pants on a Toddler and a History Of Mental Illness

A few days ago my daughter and I had an epic battle over pants. I was attempting to convince her to wear them and she disagreed. There’s no good way to put pants on an unwilling three year old. No amount of cajoling or bribery or strong arming will convince them to put on a pair of pants unless they’re damned well good and ready.

About halfway through the process and after I’d pulled out every pair of leggings and stretchy corduroy things I could find my daughter said, “you’re driving your mother crazy.”

She laughed and then bolted out of her diaper, most of the leggings that she was wearing and under her bed to roll around with the dust bunnies and God knows what else. My daughter loves dust bunnies by the way. She delights in the way they scatter when she dives towards them and is something of an aficionado in their taste, color and texture. She’s even named a few and keeps them as pets.

It was as I was dragging her feet first and giggling hysterically out from under the bed that I realized a few things:

First, that my beloved wife had most probably been through a similar situation and uttered those very words,  “You’re driving your mother crazy,”

The second was that I’m pretty sure my daughter meant, “You’re driving me crazy,” and the third was that I am, in all likelihood, driving both of them up the wall.

It wouldn’t be the first time I’d been involved with this kind of thing. The woman I dated before my wife was relatively normal until we met. Shelby, I’ll call her Shelby for propriety’s sake, didn’t boil pet rabbits or have a couch made out of human skin or even an unusual number of stuffed animals before we started dating.


Three years later I’m pretty certain she was considering turning my shin bones into struts for a coffee table. Fortunately we parted ways before that had to happen. I hear she’s doing well after having spent a small fortune on therapy and antidepressants. Through a few mutual friends I’ve heard that Shelby is living a very fulfilling life as a goat breeder’s wife in a small burg in the northern part of China. Her current location is, by coincidence I’m certain, about as far away as she could get from me on a a spherical object. If the world were flat Shelby would most certainly be living at the other corner of the map where the cartographers draw illustrations of sea monsters and dragons as a caution to other foolhardy adventurers.

I try not to take it personally. It wasn’t that there was anything inherently wrong with Shelby. I just tend to have that effect upon woman, and really most people, who know me for any length of time.

I come by it naturally I promise. Where most people have a screwball Aunt who hoards a few hundred feral cats or an alcoholic father with a latent latex fetish my family history reads more like a checklist from the psychological dictionary of disorders. In the realm of mental instability I can pretty much say that my family has it all.

I’m not so concerned about my wife. We’ve been together for over ten years and she knows what she’s gotten herself into. My real concern is for my daughter. The crazy runs strong within my family the same way the Force runs through the Skywalkers. The odds of any one person you meet on the street of having a really fucked up disorder, a genuine, psychosis, is about three percent.  The rate runs significantly higher in my family and whether it’s due to genetics or environment is a matter of some debate.

There is a risk that my daughter will have her own battle with mental illness some day whatever the cause and it rips me to my core to think that the little girl I struggle to fit into a pair of pants may, one day, have to fight off depression or something much, much worse.

She’s a fighter though. I know because I’ve seen it. My daughter is much tougher than I’ve ever been. She takes after her mother in that way. The most I can do, I suppose, is to keep an eye out for the signs and I know them well.

The most I can do “if” I’m right, if I see her begin to spiral is to help her with any and all resources I have at my disposal, to share my own struggle, and to make her understand that there is hope.

There is always hope.

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