This post has been incubating in the back of my head for quite some time. Yet I'm not really sure why I'm finally writing it this morning, since I'm not struck by creative inspiration or a profound moment. Maybe because it's been a rough morning with SoJo, and now that he's at school, I needed some sort of release from the "raaaahhhhhs" that I've been living with all morning (well, truthfully, most of the week).
Anyway, you're probably wondering what in the world this is about. Chris and I had a "eureka" moment last month when we were finally able to put a name to our challenges with our first born--he's a "Spirited" child.
I stumbled upon this book at the library, and it's really opened up a window into our son's personality and behavior. I can honestly say the last 3 years with Soren have been challenging, frustrating, tearful, and have called into question my skills as a parent. I often wondered what was wrong with me, and why my experience of parenthood was so lackluster compared with other parents that I know.
For a long time, I blamed myself, thinking I was just not cut out to be a mother, and that I was incapable of finding joy in the livelihood of being a parent. But then Jude came along, and Chris and I continually say "wow, so THIS is why people love babies and being parents!" Don't get me wrong, we're not playing favorites or idealizing life with our second-born; it's simply that he's just so much less demanding and so much more easy going and please-able. It really makes a difference in the level of stress in the house, thank goodness.
This realization has certainly made me have a deeper appreciation of all of those parents that I secretly judged prior to having kids myself, you know, when you're in line at the grocery store and a child is having a meltdown. The tendency is to blame the parents, however, as you parent-readers wisely know, it's a crap-shoot of everything, genetics, environment, mood, other influences, etc. You just never know what kind of kid you see or what the situation of the day was.
School has had its challenges, especially now that Soren is comfortable there and is showing his true colors. While he is enthusiastic and helpful to his teachers, I can tell that he's also a handful for them too. Yep, I had my first "can I talk to you" moment recently, when I picked him up from school. And yes, my heart sank, hearing those words.
But things are ok, and we're working on some issues, like we're continually working on issues. Parents of spirited kids are forever working, moment after moment after moment. I find that I don't have much of a break with keeping an eye on him, even at 3 1/2 years old. His persistence about things is a core trait of a spirited child.
Knowing what I now know via that book, it's comforting that I'm not alone in this, and that about 20% of kids are considered spirited. One of my brothers is what I'd now define as spirited, and I often wonder how my mom made it through his childhood (broken bones, broken furnishings, etc). Luckily for her, she had experience with her older children, who weren't so spirited, so I doubt she struggled with questions of her worth as a mother as I have.
Thankfully, this book has been helpful in suggesting ways of raising a child like Soren without breaking his spirit and encouraging his wonderful traits, which he has so many of. I love that he's so enthusiastic, curious, and filled with such joy (though his emotions in general are much more intense, so his lows are really low too). I hope that by parenting him moment by moment, mindfully, that Chris and I can bring out the best in him.
Do you have experience with a spirited child? What has worked for you?