If you go out to the store, you’ve probably encountered the child that doesn’t want to hold their parents’ hand. The one trying so hard to break free so they can wave at everyone that comes by and so they can walk up and down the aisles, exerting their independence.
If you go to the pool, you’ve probably seen the child who refuses help swimming, eagerly making their way to the edge and jumping right in, fearless. And at the restaurant, the kid who doesn’t want help cutting their food, but struggles through each cut as the meat slides all around their plate. But they don’t care. They smile proudly as they take that bite that took then ten minutes to cut.
We get frustrated. Wanting to hurry through the store and not say “Hi” to everyone we see. To cut their food so we can eat and get out of the restaurant before all the kids have had enough and start making a scene. But we don’t see the bigger picture. The importance in letting them do these things that drive us crazy.
They’re our spirited children. Our independent thrill-seekers who know what they want, and so badly want to do it, no matter how young they are or what obstacles are in their way.
I know raising these children can make us nervous; I have one. A strong-willed little boy who tests the boundaries, his own strength (and gravity) every single day. There are days, as I tuck him in at night, I wonder how we survived and how that bruise on his knee got there. Then he gives me a sweet smile and grabs my neck for a hug and his spirit—it’s there. The roughness, the strength and independence, but his sweetness and kindness, too. And I think about the times I apologize for something he did. Or say he has a lot of energy, in a nervous way, apologizing for his free spirit and energetic nature.
We often make excuses and give disclosures about who our kids are. Listing all their challenges for fear of being judged. Or them being judged.
It can be so easy to want to apologize for having the spirited child. The one who voices their disappointment a little too loudly or runs full speed ahead at the playground, eager and excited. But that child, their voice will take them far in life, their strength and endurance make them never want to give up. Foster those traits that so often get tagged as “bad”! Teach them kindness and respect, that using their voice is okay, being adventurous is okay. Having a little bit of extra energy is okay. Teach them to mold those traits into something positive.
To run real fast and win a race!
To debate with facts and logic. (Future lawyer?)
To never give up. Even cutting their own food. This perseverance will get them far in life.
We need to normalize, not apologize, for our children being who they are. Let them navigate life and their own personalities without judgment, but with love and guidance from people who support them and who they are, not trying to mold them into someone that society wants them to be. So, I will no longer be apologizing for having a spirited child. I will help him navigate who he is and embrace it and teach him to not let anyone change him, because he is perfect the way he is.