Both of my children were born with a certain wildness about them.
There is something feral and almost primal about everything from their physical movements, lack of concern for personal hygiene, and loud — almost shrieking — noises. Even their emotions are wild and unabashed. They feel big, love big, live big.
And sometimes it drives me absolutely mad. Most of the time, I stare at them and wonder, who the hell are you creatures, and where did you come from?
Like the time I looked out the window and found my younger son 20-feet high in the pine tree in our backyard. Or the times he makes his voice reach a decibel level I’d previously thought only dogs could hear.
My older son has been unable to sit still since he emerged from the womb, and he frequently acts on impulse (much to my dismay). In fact, his dramatic emotions are about the only thing I can even remotely understand, given that I, too, have a propensity for big feelings and wildly-dramatic emotions.
I’m not sure if it’s the testosterone coursing through their veins (I know girls can be wild children too), or if they might have actually descended from Mowgli-esque man-wolves, but everything about them is loud, rowdy, and impulsive. There is an untamed quality to them that makes them seem like aliens from another planet or feral, wild creatures from the woods.
It is a struggle to understand their antics, but it’s even harder to walk that fine line between teaching them how to behave as civilized human beings and over-domesticating them into someone they are not meant to be. I’m scared that the world will try to beat the wild out of them. I’m afraid that teachers and coaches, friends and society will make them feel like something is “wrong” with them because they don’t fit their mold.
But mostly, I’m terrified that in an attempt to teach them how to be “well-behaved,” I, their mother, will break their uninhibited free spirits. Because as much as I would like to tame the wild out of them sometimes, as much as I want them to just sit still and be quiet now and then, part of me is also in rapt awe of them.
There is something captivating, empowering, and almost magical about the way they act. They don’t overthink things or let fear paralyze them. They just go with their gut. Sure, it gets them in trouble sometimes, but it also is what helps them make new friends, try out for a sports team, or literally climb to new heights. Their behavior is equal parts maddening and inspiring.
I admire the way they feel big feelings, and then show those emotions in big ways, with long, hard hugs and sloppy kisses. I love the way they are willing to try new things and trust their gut. I love the way they live their best lives every minute of every day without worrying about things like “should”s or the expectations of others.
To be honest, I wish I were a little more like them. I wish I could say what’s on my mind, and show my emotions more often. I wish I worried less about what other people think. I wish I could take more risks without worrying about falling or failing. I wish I trusted my gut a little more instead of leaning toward the practical, “smart,” socially accepted decision.
I want them to be good, kind humans (and they are), but I don’t want to tame the wild out of them either. One doesn’t negate the other. So I walk that line, and try to teach them how to be polite without dampening their spirits. I bite my tongue when what I really want to say is “Can’t you just be quiet!” and “What the hell is wrong with you?!” I try to overlook the messes — in our house, on their clothes, on their faces.
We use our home as a safe place for their untamed behavior, knowing that out in the world the parameters of “acceptable” behavior are more rigid. We let our kids get loud and swear here (yes, they drop a few F-bombs and dammits now and then, and we don’t think that’s the end of the world). They can throw balls in the family room, ride scooters down the hall, and have pillow fights. In other words, they can be themselves in all their wild glory. And I hold my breath and pray a lot — that they don’t get hurt or wreak too much havoc.
But mostly, I hold my breath, cross my fingers, and pray that they don’t lose that wild spark. Because I truly believe that wild spark — their fearless, passionate, brave — will change the world…even if it drives me bonkers in the meantime.