The crib used to contain them, provide some sort of barrier between them and the ground. And then one day, they get brave enough to climb over the “great wall,” open the door, and look at you in a whole new way. It’s the beginning of their belief that limits CAN in fact be stretched, altered, and broken. The world becomes exciting in a whole new way.
My son has not stopped moving since he penetrated the wall. I have been told, “Oh, it’s a boy thing,” but I have seen many a little girl with the same crazed look in her eyes. The madness that only comes from being born a Wild Child. Over the years, we have tried to adapt to some of his ways because it has become very clear he is way too resistant to many of the ways of the less wild. He is house trained, but that’s where it ends. When he gets out in the world, he is an explorer wanting to find out everything there is to know about everything by running, jumping, or clawing his way towards his discovery. He is complex and emotional and on a mission to completely exhaust his parents, bringing them just to the brink of insanity before gently easing them off the ledge with a sweet kiss and perfectly timed fart in the face.
He is the love of my life, and I truly wouldn’t change my son for anything, but come on, some days are just relentless. Here are some things to keep in mind if you find yourself in the same place:
1. Surround yourself with compassionate people. Let’s face a fact that is hard, but true. Some people suck. I’m sorry, but some of them just do. A few weeks ago, I took my four-year-old son to the bouncy place. With all that energy, it’s the perfect outlet for him. I have been in some uncomfortable situations with my son. I am constantly apologizing for his behavior, even when I sometimes shouldn’t. But there I am, apologizing my way through play dates and get-togethers. But on this particular day, there were two other moms in one of the bouncers with much younger kids. My son was bouncing up and down with a perm-a-smile on his face. I apologized because I could tell they were clearly annoyed. Ignoring me, they actually got out and gave my 4-year-old the stink eye. Never before had I spoken up, but I couldn’t help myself. He actually had done nothing wrong, and it hurt. I said something about how horrible it was that they allowed children to bounce in the place. One of the moms just rolled her eyes and moved on. People suck. Aren’t all mothers on the same journey? Shouldn’t we be united or something? I don’t get it. Why is it so difficult to give a nod or smile? And the looks when my son is actually having a difficult time controlling himself, they can sting. I don’t have time for it anymore. Surrounding yourself with people who get you makes all the difference. My days are much more enlightening the more I fill them with empathetic ears and a heart big enough to care about all kinds of children, not just the “easy” ones.
2. Erase jealousy and embrace gratitude. I will admit that, on more than one occasion, I have walked by a story time session at the mall and become taken over by envy seeing all the children lined up, sitting on the carpet, listening to words being read to them. My son does not sit well. He never has. I used to check his butt for some kind of hideous rash that perhaps hurt really badly when he sat on it. Nope. It’s just not something he is programmed for. Maybe his species has adapted over time and the only way for survival is constant motion. I feel it when I go to his classroom early for a holiday party, and I feel it at a restaurant. The green-eyed monster emerges. I secretly wished my son were like that— following all the rules easily and sitting like all the other kids. But that’s not my reality. So how do I make the jealousy go away?
I embrace gratitude. I have a healthy, energetic, four-year-old boy, and I am grateful. I check on him several times at night before I go to bed. It’s my opportunity to stare at what I created and to just take a few minutes to breathe and reflect and just feel gratitude that this boy is mine for a short time. I try to remember that one day that untamed energy will be harnessed into something more controlled, into a passion for what he loves. And my energy will be spent cheering him on.
3. When in doubt, fire a heat-seeking missile. Or a torpedo. Take your pick. My son can be more than just difficult sometimes. Some days begin with him climbing into our bed and kicking me in the face as he carelessly steps over me. And then the fun begins. He’ll cry all the way to school because we forgot his special blanket, and then he’ll cry the entire way home after I pick him up because I brought him the blanket, which he says “lives” at home and therefore does not belong in the car. Sometimes it seems like a reality show. Perhaps Survivor. We spend the day manipulating each other to get the desired outcome we each want. Pretty much every time we go to leave anywhere, I have to tell him goodbye – as if I’m leaving without him – just to get him to come with me. Then he runs toward me all upset because his horrible mother is leaving him. When he wants something, he asks me while shaking his head yes. I must say, his method is very powerful. Then when he hears “no,” the anger takes hold. The back and forth can be exhausting. I get so irritated when things that should be very easy suddenly become very difficult. What I have to remember though is my little man’s weakness. The kid can’t resist a full-on tickle attack by heat seeking missile fingers. When the missiles have been launched, that smile I love quickly fills his face. He is putty in my hands and finally ready to put his shoes on, or get in the car. Making him laugh when he is frustrated or angry has helped us both. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a start.
4. A good ugly cry can actually be quite beautiful. I used to think that after a bad day, a cry meant some sort of failure, like it was the final screw up because I couldn’t hold it together. Maybe it’s because, when I was young, I used to cry all the time, and for whatever reason, I would then add on a secondary session of crying because I was so upset about the first cry. Now, I look at a good cry like a shower of sorts. I feel a little more refreshed afterwards and ready to move on and deal with whatever I need to. A good, devastatingly ugly cry is sometimes just the thing to make for a beautiful rest of the day. Don’t get me wrong, life is good. In fact, in the past I have cried because I felt terrible about myself that I was upset enough to cry when my life isn’t really that bad. I used to think, “There are people living on the streets. Why do I have the right to complain?” Well, unfortunately, I am human and flawed by design, so I do have to cry sometimes because I do get overwhelmed. For example, the other day my son spent a majority of the day in time-out for hitting. I began to realize that the vibe in the house was way off – too negative. It was a long day. He was really pushing me, and as much as I told myself to stay calm and ignore the behaviors, it got to me. The real problem is that the world still revolves and a multitude of things happen in our lives at the same time. My son is not listening, a family member is sick, there are bills to be paid, friends to help, dinner to make, and the list goes on. And these are everyday problems, and they can be handled, maybe sometimes just after a good, hearty cry.
5. Prepare for that which you can not prepare for. George Washington said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” I think this stands true when raising wild children as well. I will never forget being at a restaurant with my son when he was younger. As usual, he would not sit still and was becoming louder and louder. A woman sitting at a table next to us handed my son a book. She was prepared. It seems so simple, yet a giant light bulb went off. The normal toys I brought with me were just that. They were typical, boring. So now I travel with enough ammunition to completely blindside the enemy. Whether it is a coloring book or a homemade laminated placemat with a dry-erase marker, I am ready with a bag full of distractions. I never realized the impact of distraction until I got creative. I have had people tell me a child needs to learn how to just sit at a restaurant without any distractions so they can get used to it and learn. Ha! I have been tempted to have them take my son out to eat. They would probably end up letting him dump out all the salt and pepper shakers and use the mustard and ketchup to make a Pollock painting on the table just to keep him busy and their sanity in tact. I don’t want to keep my son out of situations because it’s easier. I want to keep throwing him in the water until he learns how to swim. Sometimes you just have to start by using floaties.
Related post: What You Don’t Know About that Unruly Child