Friday, July 22, 2016

Parenting My Spirited Child--Can you relate?

Mom2MomEd Blog: Parenting My Spirited Child--Can you relate?
My name is McKenzie and I am parent to a spirited child.

I absolutely ADORE my daughter beyond words. Nothing melts my heart more than when she looks at me and says, “Mommy, we are tougher because we’re girls.” The very characteristics that make me crazy are the same ones that I LOVE about her and will take her far in life. They just happen to also make her kind of hard to parent sometimes.

I had my son in 2011 and it was a huge adjustment, as most parents likely experience. I adapted and he grew and proved to be a sweet, mellow little guy who adored his mama. We did everything together. He slept through the night early on, was independent but loving, and we really got into a good groove.

When I found out I was pregnant again I was so excited. After all, I had this parenting thing figured out and was obviously doing a good job with sleep, routine, etc. I was a parenting rock star, right?

Then I found out that I was having a little girl and I was over the moon.

One of each!

How did I get so lucky? We were going to do this, no problem!

On Valentine’s Day, almost two months before my due date, my water broke while I was making dinner. It wasn’t a little trickle like you see in the movies. It was a full on geyser that wouldn’t stop.

We made our way to the hospital to have a baby—way too early! I was panicked, worried, and scared.

The doctors said that I was going to have to stay on bed rest in the hospital or they would induce labor depending on how the baby was doing.

I ended up being induced.

Thankfully, our sweet little Delilah was overall healthy, but she had to stay in the NICU to “feed and grow.” We were able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Once we brought Delilah home, she slept for 23 hours a day for a full month and a half. She slept so much that I had to wake her up to eat. We’d bring her and a pack-and-play portable crib to whatever we were doing and life was good. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to add a second baby to our family.

We must be really good parents, right?

Piece of cake!

AND then...

Delilah’s actual due date came and went—she must have gotten the memo because it was like a light switch went on.

Our sleeper no longer slept. She didn’t just cry when she wanted something, she screamed. She would only sleep in her room if I was laying on the floor at an 81 ½ degree angle in the most awkward and uncomfortable position on the hardwood floor, WHILE making eye contact. She didn’t cry it out—she wouldn’t. I’m convinced that if we hadn’t spent that time in her bedroom at bedtime, she would still be crying three years later.

This chick does not give up!

(Again, one of the qualities I LOVE about my daughter is her feistiness, but not so much when I was sleep deprived and cranky!)

I’m telling you all of this because this is just who Delilah has been from the very start. She came onto this world with a bang and surely will light some fires while she is here.

While I think it’s adorable that she’s remained itty bitty, yet is tougher than much bigger kids her age, it is also frustrating. I don’t particularly love finding my tiny child on top of the refrigerator when I get out of the shower or finding all of my jewelry stashed in her underwear drawer (after she’s been punished for it 500 times) or having to throw away most of her clothing because she can’t stay out of mud, markers, gross things, etc.

I’m still learning with my daughter, my husband, and my son about how to best meet her needs. She is one of those kids that simply doesn’t care if you take away a toy, give her time out, send her to bed early, or withhold a special treat.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what works and I’m pretty confident that if I find a method of managing some of my daughter’s spirited, but sometimes dangerous and sometimes aggravating behaviors, what works today won’t work tomorrow.

Her willpower alone is a force to be reckoned with.

I am constantly worried that I am going to fail her.

I struggle to find the balance of honoring her spirit and also teaching her skills that will let her fit into society. I am scared that teachers and other authority figures will try to “tame” her spirited nature out of her.

Despite all of the headaches, messes, and battles, I realize now that I would not change a single bit of her. In many ways, I am envious of my daughter’s ability to just live and be truly in the moment.

I’m pretty sure that she will be able to find her own balance in life eventually, but I want to make sure that I’m always her best advocate and encourage her to always be true to herself. Even though I will do anything to foster her sense of self I am also terrified for her.

I’m terrified because it’s hard to stand out in society.

We grow up being told how to act, how to fit in, and what we should do. While it’s a lot easier for adults to buck the system, it’s a lot more difficult for children. Next year my daughter will start pre-school. It will be our first go round with her a part of a formal system. We will see how it goes. Luckily, we know her teacher and couldn’t ask for a more caring, loving, and patient person. I know that she will get the direction she needs and will also get an opportunity to be appreciated for who she is with this teacher. But what about the following year and the many years after that? I worry. How can I not?

It’s amazing how two children can be raised by the same parents, in the same environment, and yet they are entirely different. My son will cry if we take away the tiniest of tiny Lego piece and make him earn it back. My daughter, in contrast, will happily pile up toys and call us in to come get them.

Much like differentiated learning in the classroom it’s challenging to meet the needs of more than one child at times.

For now, I’m just going to keep doing what we’re doing and clean up messes, throw away clothes, and love and snuggle my kids.

Are you parenting a spirited child? If so, what approach has worked for you? Do you have any tips for myself and others on how to best meet the needs of their child? Please share your own struggles and solutions! Leave your answers in the comments or over on Facebook!

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1 comment:

  1. I so so so related when you say you want to be her advocate. As tricky as I find it to not lose my cool with my spirited girl it also upsets me that outsiders or even my family can box her in as "proud" and "stubborn". My husband and I are working on reminding each other what a gem we've got and to be her cheerleaders.
    LR Knost's books and gentle parenting methods have really helped me, although I'm still hopelessly flawed and my own bad habits and "pride" get in the way of lovingly parenting as I'd like too. We've found spending time in investing in our relationship with her is the best method. Its always nice to hear of others supporting their strong girls xx