I had a few epiphanies after having my second child. Kids can stay in the same outfit all day. Naptime doesn’t require wrestling moves. And it turns out that they can hear you the first time you tell them to do something. Who knew? Imagine my shock when a preschool teacher told me that she wished she had 10 of my daughters in her class. In my first two years of parent-teacher conferences, I had never heard anything near that uttered from a teacher’s mouth. Though I know my son’s teachers loved him to pieces, I also knew, they, like me, could only handle one of him.
If you haven’t guessed yet, my first is the infamous “free-spirited” child. The one who makes me feel like every step of parenthood is like being baptized by fire. He is one of my three reasons I tell everyone parenting is my most challenging blessing. He has literally given me more grays than I can now cover up. I have cried in closets, in cars, and in pantries while eating snacks over some aspect associated with parenting him. Also, turns out, he is 100 percent mine. He got a double dose of stubbornness and competitiveness from his dad and me. A healthy spirit for the challenging of authority is a mom trait. And per my mother-in-law, all the backtalk makes him his dad’s junior. Sprinkle in a “0-100” temperament, and we are parenting the most interesting combination of ourselves possible, and it is stretching us in every way.
This, however, is not a pity me parenting story. This is my declaration that the wild children are exactly what we and this world need. I feel like this is the part of parenting that people whisper about. The challenge that no one wants people to know they are having because people try to shame mothers who “can’t control” their child. The reality is that though I have been brought to tears many days and nights wondering if I’m “doing this right” or giving him what he needs, my goal is not to change him. I don’t want to put out his fire, I just want to teach him how to control the flame so he doesn’t burn himself or others. When he harnesses his power, we — and this world — will be all the better for it.
The children who color outside the lines will create the most breathtaking masterpieces. The children who challenge the rules will create better more inclusive ones. The children who constantly question will be our inventors and creatives.
So yes, “that” child is mine, and I am so proud of it.