My Son Is A Strong-Willed Child, And It's Exhaustingly Beautiful

by Mary Katherine
Mary Katherine Backstrom

It’s hard to explain the struggle I have with my oldest child. Even speaking the word “struggle” makes me feel guilty because he’s everything I hoped for in a son. I know I’m lucky to be his mama. He’s this fabulous, uncontainable ball of energy, buzzing around our house, filling our lives with laughter and noise and the occasional broken lamp.

But the truth is, sometimes the wild of his heart makes me tired — really tired, bone-tired.

I spend all day clashing with his strong will, iron against iron, until the sun goes down when I go to bed feeling like a worn-down nub. There aren’t enough activities to burn his candle down. Putting that boy to bed is like putting a cat in bathwater. It’s a pay-per-view-worthy event, every single night. He’s just not tired.

Not even a little.

And worse? I can’t figure out how to discipline this child. When I’m harsh, it backfires. When I give him an inch, he takes it 6 miles. He is bruised knees and outside voices, 90 miles per hour, all day, every day. And I am two steps behind, huffing from the chase and yelling for the 50th time, “Get down from that right now!”

So many of our interactions are frustration and noise. I establish a boundary; he crashes through it. It’s a constant tug of war for power, and most of the time, if I’m being honest, he’s winning.

I feel like I’m the frayed rope of a tire swing, and he’s swinging higher and faster and higher and faster and higher and…

It scares me to think I could break.

How can I continue to parent like this, when every thing he does feels like a small rebellion?

What happens when my last bit of patience comes sloshing out of the cup I’ve been desperately trying to keep steady?

Yesterday morning, I prayed that God would give me what I need to love this kid well. I pleaded with Him to reconcile the gap between the loud and the quiet, the crazy and the calm.

“God, please, show me how to do this.”

Later that evening, as I was scrolling through pictures of our recent vacation, I came across this:

MK Backstrom

My boy. My wild-hearted child, frolicking in the waves with the energy of a thousand suns. He is King Max. His world — our world — is where the wild things are. The day he was born, a royal rumpus began.

And as I sat there staring at that fiery little soul captured in thumbnail photo, I felt a whisper in my heart — an answer to my morning prayer.

You see those ocean waves?

They are both beautiful and wild. They dance and crash and roar, and maybe it seems like chaos from the shore.

But there is a quiet force at work.

From a distance, a gentle guide is constantly pulling, fighting, creating order amongst the waves.

The moon and the ocean.

The push and the pull.

A mother and her son.

In one picture, I was reminded that my job is simply to be there. Calm and consistent.

To oversee the chaos of the wild. Not to tame it, but to quietly pull it into order.

Mamas, we will never tame the sea. So let’s go ahead and cut ourselves, and our babies, some slack.

There is a place in this world for the calm and the wild. There is a purpose for them both.

Today, I am going to take a step back. I will let the waves crash and appreciate the incredible beauty that exists within my wild-at-heart child.

Will you do the same?