If I had a dollar for every time someone has said, “you sure have your hands full,” regarding my 4-year-old daughter, I would be a millionaire. I used to cringe when people would say that to me. Now I reply, “but my heart is even fuller.”
My daughter has had a strong personality from the beginning. She was a (pleasant) surprise pregnancy. She was a long 22-hour labor and delivery. She was a sensitive sleeper and eater, never wanting to do either. She was an intense and persistent crier, but did not have colic. She was in total control of everything, including her Type-A, control-freak mother.
Fast forward, and four years later not much has changed. We still battle about sleep, eating, and anything else she does not want to do. Some call her strong-willed, stubborn, picky, exhausting, controlling, challenging–you name it.
On the flip side, she has always been very active, perceptive, and bright. She walked early, talked early, and potty-trained early. She has always had a lot of energy; energy that if not released or fine-tuned turns into boredom and “trouble.” She has stacked chairs on top of chairs to unlock cabinets to get a snack in the middle of the night. She has used my make-up brushes to “paint” the cat and make her “pretty.” She’s “decorated” the refrigerator with permanent markers because it looked “boring.” She even ate a purple glass ornament because she thought it was a grape. All to name a few. Some call her smart, creative, innovative, funny, silly–you name it.
Yes, I certainly have my hands full. I thought these were typical traits of all children. It wasn’t until I had my son almost two years ago, that I realized how very different every child is. My two children, right down to their birth stories, are night-and-day different. My son was born about two hours after we got to the hospital, with no time for any drugs of any sort. He slept and ate very well and at predictable times right from the beginning. He did not cry a lot and has been a generally happy child.
I’ve come to realize that my first child does not deserve those negative labels or solely the positive labels; rather, she is “spirited” (as coined by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka). She has a temperament and personality all her own, unlike that of other children, one that is often misunderstood.
And for that, my dear spirited child, I am sorry.
I am sorry I did not know how special and unique you were from the beginning.
I am sorry for trying to control instead of learn, for yelling instead of teaching, for being impatient, dismissive, and easily frustrated. I know you just want attention, to be heard, and to feel loved. Do not worry my spirited little one, you are loved more than you will ever comprehend.
Despite my faults, I have tried to protect your spirit by speaking out when people call you manipulative, naughty, or bad. None of those labels fit you. You just see things differently, experience things differently, understand the world differently.
I understand why you hate itchy tags, are particular about food, dislike interruptions when you are creating masterpieces, become tense and anxious in a room full of new people, and need to have alone time everyday to recharge.
I am sorry I did not see it until now. I am sorry you are…just…like…me…
Sweet child, please forgive me and know that I am trying. Now that I am home full-time, without work distracting me, I can better focus on your needs. I am finally starting to read the parenting books our ECFE parent educator recommended two years ago that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf. The timing of my recent job change could not have been more perfect for us. Just when I thought I had run out of ways to effectively parent, I now have the opportunity to educate myself and make changes to be the mother I really want to be for you and your brother.
I promise to listen more and yell less, to play more and boss less, to cuddle more and ignore less, to understand more and control less, to be more patient, flexible, and positive.
I promise to learn positive discipline to teach you right from wrong in a way you understand.
I promise to continue to defend you, stand up for you, and to not let others (including myself) speak negatively about you and your spiritedness. You are an incredible treasure with an incredible spirit.
I promise to protect your spirit and to not let anyone break it.
Yes, I certainly have my hands full. My hands are full with your sophisticated handmade pictures and stories, with your elaborate Play-Doh and kinetic sand sculptures, with your creative princess crowns and superhero capes, with your sweet little hands to hold while we dance together. My heart is even more full of love, understanding, and appreciation for you.
Thank you for being patient with me as I learn how to be a mother, your mother.
Thank you for forgiving me when I do make mistakes.
Thank you for hugging me and wiping away my tears on the difficult days.
Thank you for loving me unconditionally.
Thank you for teaching me how to love unconditionally.
Thank you for being you.
I love you.
Original post published April 2016
The following are the books no longer collecting dust on my bookshelf. Hopefully one of them can help with your spirited child as well.
- Raising Your Spirited Child by: Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
- Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook by: Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
- Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime by: Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
- If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling by: Amy McCready
- Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems by: Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn
- Positive Discipline for Preschoolers by: Jane Nelsen, Cheryl Erwin, and Roslyn Ann Duffy
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by: Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
- Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by: John Gottman
- Positive Parenting in Action by: Laura Ling and Rebecca Eanes