Dear fellow nursery school moms, people in grocery stores, the teller at the bank, the receptionist at our doctor’s office, and relatives who would love to say something but wisely refrain from doing so, I see you there. I see your raised eyebrows and poorly hidden expressions of shock at my child’s behavior. I certainly feel your judgement. I can hear the questions rolling around in your brain that you’re dying to ask, but manage not to. I can also see you biting your tongue in a desperate attempt to stop yourself from telling me exactly where I am going wrong as a parent. I see you.
Guess what? I have three other children at home who behaved exactly the way you all expect children to behave. Children who always listened and never strayed from my side while we were out in public. Children who smiled politely when spoken to and who always remembered their manners. Children who would have made you very comfortable and confident in your opinions of my ability to raise them. Then I was blessed with a fourth, a little firecracker of a child who not only marches to the beat of her own drum, but who would happily smash that drum into a million pieces to avoid falling in line with the rest of the group.
Trust me, I’m regularly just as shocked and surprised by her behavior as you are. Remember, I have three more at home, and I am baffled on a daily basis as to how my fourth could be so different. I didn’t eat differently while I was expecting her. I took my vitamins. She isn’t being raised in a different home or under different circumstances, so if she surprises you, you can imagine how often she surprises me.
Before, I fought her personality. Oh, how I fought it. I was determined that somewhere in that little body there must be a complacent and easy-going child, just like her older siblings. Surely it was just a phase. Maybe a bad day or a challenging week. There must be some explanation.
Then finally one day, while watching her as she refused to listen to something I asked her to do, I took a step back and a deep breath. Instead of getting angry and defensive at her refusal to blindly follow my rules, I looked in her eyes. I really looked. She wasn’t intentionally misbehaving. It wasn’t her mission in life to do the exact opposite of what I asked, although it had certainly felt that way. She was my wild child. She was simply being fiercely and unapologetically herself, her own person, and no amount of yelling and arguing and bribing on my part was going to change that.
Do you know what? I think that’s pretty amazing.
In a world where society will try to tell her every single day of her entire life how she is supposed to dress, eat, talk, act, how much she should weigh, what she should do with her hair, what she should want, and who she should aspire to be, I am relieved to see her wildness. It’s my desperate hope that she will continue to be fierce in who is she and what she wants. I hope with all of my heart that she will balk at conventions and refuse to blindly follow societal norms. I want her to stay wild. I know that she will go on to accomplish amazing things. She will accomplish them while being confidently and unapologetically herself.
However I have many years and a long road ahead of me, mostly uphill. I will have to remind myself daily that while I’m teaching her, I don’t need to tame her. I will continue to take deep breaths and steps back. While I continue down this road, unless you are offering me a strong cup of coffee, a hug, or perhaps a glass of wine, please keep your raised eyebrows and shocked expressions to a minimum. Thank you.
Parts of this piece were originally published on the blog www.isthatchocolateorpoop.com