When You’re The Parent Of An IRL 'Dennis The Menace'

My Child Isn’t ‘Spirited’ — She’s A Wild Honey Badger, And I’m Flat-Out Exhausted

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Let’s talk about my daughter Aspen, because she’s a lot. Right now she’s six. She’s the youngest, and I can say this with total sincerity: if she had been our first, she’d have been our last. I used to complain about my first child, Tristan, who was a pretty active little boy, but now, after raising my daughter, I know that my son was pretty much Jesus in the manger, which makes my daughter the devil. Well… hold on, that was a little too far. She isn’t totally the devil, but she is a handful, and after being quarantined with her for the past several months, I want to publicly admit that I’m good and tired and I need all the naps.

Here’s the thing. She’s a non-stop, mile a minute, talk your ear off, always into something, wild honey badger of a child. She has interrupted nearly every Zoom meeting I’ve ever had to tell me about the dog. Yesterday, she took all the cans out of the pantry, every single one, so she could build a castle for Queen Elsa — and when I told her to put them away, she just pushed them over, and cried. Last week she dressed our dog in a play dress and made him get married to one of my running shoes. The dog was a good sport, but he wasn’t happy, and I feel sorry for the shoe, because it was obviously part of a pair, and now the shoe probably has to pay alimony to its former companion.

When You’re The Parent Of An IRL 'Dennis The Menace'
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Aspen has thrown an iPad in the kids’ pool, smashed the screen of another with a kaleidoscope, and tossed her grandmother’s iPhone in the toilet. And I know, there are some “I’ve got this all figured out parents” reading this, ready to jump into the comments and talk about how I need to drop the hammer on my daughter, ground her, and take away all her lovies until she straightens up and flies right and pays me back for all that broken technology. But unless you’ve had a wild child, you have no idea. Living with a wild child is like living with a guerrilla terrorist, always one step ahead, with tunnels under the house that were built for ambushes. I could install cameras, and heat sensors, and lasers, to keep her out of trouble and she’d still find a way. It’s just who she is, and I’ve accepted that.

She’s THE kid that pulls all the strings, and there have been moments raising her that I’ve considered pulling our van onto the side of the highway and just walking the earth. But the funny thing about her is this, right then, when I’m about to lose it all, and pull all my hair out, she flips it on me. Frankly, I think that’s the real secret weapon of the wild child.

For example, we went camping last weekend as a family. I was struggling to get Aspen into pajamas and into bed. She was fighting me, and I was already tired from camping because, you know, camping with kids kinda sucks. I mean, honestly, I pay bills so I don’t have to sleep outside. Anyway, I was digging through my bag, while fighting with her, when I noticed a sock monkey.

Obviously, Aspen had slid it into my bag before we left the house. She really is the only person in the family who would do something like this.

When You’re The Parent Of An IRL 'Dennis The Menace'
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I pulled it out, and she smiled up at me, all big and gap-toothed, and said, “I put that in your bag, Daddy.”

“Why?” I asked

“In case you get scared,” she said.

I know, it’s silly. But it was the sweetest, most thoughtful gesture I’ve experienced in a long time, and I couldn’t help but realize that she honestly cares for me in a way only a sweet, trouble-making six-year-old can.

And I’m sure you have all seen this with your own kids. You don’t have even one ounce of patience left, and your kiddo pulls out the sweetest side hug, or a tender “I wuv you” or in this case, slides a lovey into your camping bag.

And poof!

You melt.

But it seems like right now, with families being together 24/7 with no breaks, these sweet moments are particularly important for you parents with a wild child. They are the lifeblood of staying sane in 2020. So my suggestion is to keep your eye out for them, savor them, get every little bit of love out of them, because honestly, moments like these might be the only thing keeping you from the above mentioned “wandering the earth.”

And because I know you’re curious: The answer is “yes.” I slept with the sock monkey. I mean, come on. When your child does something like that, it’s pretty difficult not to take them up on the offer … especially if you can almost guarantee they’ll make you want to run away screaming tomorrow.