My Strong-Willed Child, I See You

by Stephanie Gilbert
kellyyllek21 / iStock

My dear strong-willed child, I see you. You might not think that I do, but I really do see you. Through the long and tiresome (did I mention long?) evening cleanups when picking up just one more block seems like an astronomical feat you just cannot complete, I see you. Through the preschool meltdowns when coloring one more leaf on a plant appears to be your personal Mt. Everest, I see you. When you stand there and grimace with pursed lips and nose scrunched just before you release a giant-sized “No! I don’t want to!” I still see you.

It might not seem like I do as I hover over you with teeth gritted, barking out orders and threats of discipline as you act out once again. But when tempers calm and you climb meekly into my lap, nuzzle close to my heart, and whisper, “I love you, Mommy,” what I’ve been seeing all along is that much clearer. Yes, you are my strong-willed child, but you are so much more.

You are my little leader. It’s obvious as you step into the preschool room the effect you have on the kids around you. They watch what you do. They ask to play with you. And even when you’re bad and push or hit one of these friends, they forgive easily and beg to play with you again.

One day, you and these other littles will be the big kids, then teenagers, then adults, and you will have a choice to make in each of these stages of life. Will you use that stubbornness and stand-my-ground attitude to lead others toward wise, good decisions, or will you lead them to foolish, reprehensible decisions that will cost you and them far more than you want to pay? You see, your strong will is a gift. It might as well be a superpower. Wield it well, my love.

You are ingenuity at its finest — perhaps a little too smart for your own good. When you hear “No,” what really processes in your inquisitive mind is “Not that way.” So if you couldn’t get that piece of candy by asking, you’ll find a way to make it happen by yourself, and of course, make sure Mommy is preoccupied before making your move.

With that mind, one day you’ll accomplish greatness. When critics say “you can’t,” you’ll say “watch me.” They say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” but I say “Where there’s a strong will, there are 100 ways.” And you, my darling, will find every last one of them.

You are fiercely independent. The evidence is in your objections to my assistance offered at bath time, teeth brushing time, getting dressed time, and basically every other “time” of the day (except, of course, those times you simply don’t want to, like cleanup time…sigh). But, oh, the battles you’ve waged over doing it all by yourself!

One day, this independence will drive you to the top. You’ll get that promotion, that raise, that bonus all on your own because in your eyes, there won’t be any other option. You’ll work harder than your peers when your mind is made up about what you really want. And you won’t quit until it’s yours. You, my dear, are a fighter.

As you grow and I’m faced with the struggle between reigning in that strong will and encouraging your growth through it, my heart and hope is to nurture that fire within you and grow it to greatness, not squelch it with my smothering grasp.

I pray you’ll use that strong will to change your piece of the planet. After all, all it takes is a little leadership, ingenuity, and independence to change the world as we know it.

You, my little one, are a game changer. And even when you don’t think I do, I see you.