Raising a child is no easy task.
Raising a wild one, also known as a spirited child, is even less so.
If you’ve never heard the term, spirited children are generally simply described as being “more.”
As parents of these wonderfully wild ones, we also need to be “more.” More patient, more resilient, more adaptive.
We need to find more activities to entertain them, more educational resources to challenge them. We need to be more clear on our personal needs, take time to decompress, and fill up our cups to avoid burning out. We need to reach out to our friends more, and vent more, and celebrate more. We need more coffee.
Recently, a close friend told me, as our wild ones played on the playground, that she still reads my article, “Challenge Accepted: Raising a Wild One.” She reads it when she needs a reminder that she’s not alone, or that her son’s determination will be vital as an adult.
If I’m being honest, I still read it, too, when I need to remind myself.
In the last four years, since that article was written, I’ve learned quite a lot about raising a Wild One. Every age and stage comes with new challenges, and I accept and prepare myself to guide us both through each and every single one.
My friends who face similar struggles have shared what has worked for them and what hasn’t, and I’ve been sure to do the same. Through frustrated sighs and sometimes even tears, we remind each other that we’re all doing the best we can, and that our wild ones are doing well. After all, they’re happy and healthy, and this determination that they have will indeed be vital as an adult.
But, it’s not easy, and it’s never perfect.
On the contrary, there are many mornings when the parents of wild ones haven’t even poured coffee before the high energy, thousand questions, and boundary-pushing begins. We often become puddles on the couch after bedtime, not that bedtime is quick or simple. No, we can melt after the third tuck-in or so. Melt and wonder, or sometimes worry, if we’re doing a good job in guiding them.
I often wonder, too, what my wild one will do with this determination as an adult. I hope, if I’m successful in guiding him in a positive direction, that he’ll wield it with responsibility. I remind myself often to see his drive in a positive light, especially during the more frustrating moments.
This age adds a new level of theatrics—and I mean Academy Award-level theatrics. Stomping feet. Slammed doors. Collapsing with an audible sigh when he doesn’t get his way. Teenage attitude tucked inside the body of a seven-year-old. He sheds tears of joy when things are wonderful, and he shouts when he’s excited and passionate about something.
Perhaps, he’ll be an actor when he grows up.
He loves to debate. He’ll object to new rules, and I have to remind him that they are in place for his own benefit. At first, he’d simply protest and ask for an explanation to my less-than-satisfactory answer. When he decided that him asking, “why,” and me answering, “because I said so,” had been overdone, he changed his strategy.
Now, he’ll formulate follow-up questions when the response he receives isn’t ideal. He’ll change his wording, just so, in the hopes that he’ll receive the answer that he wants. To counter this, my newest, well-used phrase is, “asked and answered.”
Perhaps, he’ll be a lawyer.
Then there are the loop-holes. Oh, the loop-holes. If I ask him to stop doing something, like mimicking a video game’s theme music on full blast while I’m navigating traffic, he will. Only, he’ll start mimicking the end credit music instead. Why? Well, because I wasn’t entirely specific in the way that I asked. What I’ve learned is to be more direct and fill in any of the holes that he might loop right through.
Perhaps, he’ll be a musician, or an activist, or a politician.
He loves to push boundaries and try new things. He loves to experiment, with science and questions, with coding and building Legos, with art and writing.
Perhaps, he’ll be an engineer, or a scientist, or a game designer.
He’s determined to see the good in people, and to right wrongs, and to make new friends. He loves to talk and connect with people—both children and adults. He’ll bring me flowers he’s picked, pictures he’s drawn, and make little things for his friends.
Perhaps, he’ll be a good partner and continue to be a good friend.
He laughs often, and loudly. He loves to tell jokes and find new ways to make people smile.
Perhaps, he’ll be happy.
Truly, that’s what matters in this life. Finding joy, and holding onto it. As a parent, I’d like nothing more than for him to be happy. As I tucked him in tonight, and brushed the wild hair from his face, I couldn’t help but smile down at him as he smiled up at me. I’m happy, too. Exhausted, but immensely happy.
May this be another reminder to you, to my friends, to myself; this determination of our wild ones, this courage and quick wit and drive, is as much a blessing as it is a challenge.
May we hold steady on our boundaries while we encourage their independence. May we broaden their horizons while still protecting them. May we remember that all of these traits, if guided in the right direction, will do wonders for them.
May our wild ones charge toward their biggest hopes, dreams, and goals with the same energy that they charge toward the playground.
And may they be happy.