Sep 29, 2015

In Defense of My Spirited Child

My child is in the middle of the playground screaming at all of the other kids who pass by him to "get away". He screams at another little boy in exasperation because he is too close to his body, and I can almost taste his frustration. I can see him escalating from zero to sixty, and a million feelings pass through me simultaneously.

I am embarrassed. Oh the embarrassment that is a tantrum in the middle of a group of calm children. I stand there watching my little buddy melt down while the other mothers and caregivers stare at us uncomfortably. I watch them exchange looks, and I can see it in their face. "I'm glad that's not my kid."

I am exhausted. Dealing with another meltdown on a beautiful day when I just really want it not to be happening is really not what I had hoped to do today.

But, most of all, my heart aches for my baby. My baby who is being stared at. My baby who is being judged. My baby whom other parents are feeling grateful isn't theirs. Because you know what? He is MINE. And it hurts so badly to see my little guy in such a state and to feel the judgment and assumptions other parents are making about him. And, while you are glad that he isn't yours, I AM glad that he is mine.

The truth is, my child is spirited. There I said it. And it feels good to say it aloud (or type it VERY LOUDLY) even if it is apparent to people who meet us. He is spirited through and through, and over the past three years this has manifested itself in different ways. He is intense, easily angered, and fiercely determined to get what he wants. I've had to at different times pull him from classes, stop having playdates with people, and wrack my brain trying to figure out how to diffuse certain situations that were triggers. On the flip side, he is incredibly loving to the ones he cares about, absolutely brilliant, and wildly creative. He feels everything so deeply. Whether his emotions are negative or positive, he feels them on a level that most children do not. When he is having a melt down in a public place, nobody sees him for who he is - a little boy who doesn't fit into the mold. They don't see what I see when I look at him. They don't see the little boy who tells me and his daddy that he loves us 100 times a day or the boy who cries at night because he is scared of the dark and always ends up in bed with us or the boy who is so intelligent and witty that he constantly has us in hysterics. All they see is his anger, and when they do, they make assumptions.

"What a bad kid."

"He must have horrible parents."

"He is SO spoiled."

Or worse, they think THEY can parent him better. The saying, "It takes a village." does NOT apply to spirited children. At least not to mine. While I would appreciate some mom to mom support, trying to address a situation directly with my child in which you know little about only makes it worse. Typically it is when another well-meaning parent tries to correct him or parent him that he loses it. I have seen it play out so many times that at this point, I am prepared just to leave when it happens. I wish we could all follow the code that unless a child is in danger or putting others in danger to just LEAVE IT ALONE. Spirited children aren't necessarily threatened by authority, but it's the way that the authority is communicated that can either make or break the situation. As the mother of a spirited child, I am a work in progress. Sometimes I lose my cool. Sometimes I make the situation worse. But 9 out of 10 times I can assure you that I will be able to diffuse the situation better than you can. After all, I have parented this child since birth. I understand him like no other.

I am not the only mother out there who is raising a spirited child. I know this, but it doesn't make it feel any less isolating. When 24 out of the 25 kids at a birthday are having fun, and my child is the one crying because someone told him something he didn't want to hear, it makes me feel sad, angry, and alone. If it makes ME feel that way, I can only imagine how HE feels.

So, here I am in defense of my spirited child. Because he doesn't deserve the stares. He doesn't deserve the judgement. He doesn't deserve to be treated like he's typical, because he isn't. He is extraordinary and he will change the world. Until then though, please respect his space and the fact that he needs some extra time to process all of the big thoughts and emotions flying around in his head. He IS spirited, and also only three after all.

And to all the other spirited children out there, and the parents who FIERCELY love them (because we all know that they can test you like no other!), I'm sending you a fist bump and a hug. You deserve it, and you are not alone.

Are you raising a spirited child? Here are some of our favorite resources:

Raising Your Spirited Child, Third Edition: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

3 Ways to Be Thankful for Your Spirited Child from Dirt and Boogers

Raising a Strong Willed Child from The Educators' Spin On It

Best Parenting Tips for Parenting an Angry Child from Lemon Lime Adventures

What You Don't Know About THAT Kid from Lemon Lime Adventures

Parenting Gifted and Intense Children from Raising Lifelong Learners

What is an Intense Child? from Raising Lifelong Learners

8 Signs You Have a Spirited Child from Scary Mommy

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