Sunday, July 5, 2009

In defense of parents with 'spirited' children

You know the ones I'm talking about, the little ones who can never sit still and are always...always!...busy investigating whatever captures their interest in the world around them. They're the 'spirited children' in our midst, and there are plenty of them. Including my two young grandsons.

I read an interesting article in the Parenting section at iVillage by a writer named Deborah Shafritz. I tried to put a link to it but for some crazy reason it wouldn't work so I'll type it out here and you can copy and paste it to your browser:

Maybe just clicking on it will take you there. It's very interesting, very informative. It fits my two little guys to a "T".

As you all know -- at least, those of you who read here regularly -- I've been doing daily day care for my two little grandsons for over 3 years now, ever since the first one was less than 3 months old. I have them on an average of 55 hours per week. From Day One it's been busy. Crazy busy. Both of them are very bright, very engaging. Funny. Silly. Entertaining. They make me laugh most days. And then there are those days where both of them are so "over-juiced" they make me collapse with exhaustion at the end of the day. Days where I spend every hour chasing after one, only to chase after the other one once the first one has been taken care of. Back and forth.

No, I don't believe they're hyperactive. I don't believe they have OD or ADD or ODADD or ABCDE. I worked for the school district for several years and I've witnessed and worked with kids who have all the behavioral and learning problems out there. What I have are two very curious, inquisitive little boys who are headstrong, stubborn, and relentless. Which, from what my daughter-in-law tells me, is exactly the same way she was as a child. As an adult she's a very focused, very capable woman. She's not one who relaxes easily, tho. I think Dylan and Cooper are carbon copies of her.

I get out and about a lot with the boys. We go for lots of walks and have a lot of interaction with people. Dylan is at the age now where we're beginning to 'introduce' him to Sunday School and I take him. Most of the time their behavior is just fine. Quite often Dylan will sit thru Sunday School. But there are those days where it's like WWIII has erupted in the double stroller, where both boys pull hair, slap, and do anything and everything they can to antagonize one another. They're grabbing at everything we pass by, outside and in stores. There are Sunday mornings where Dylan just isn't interested in going to Sunday School. And sometimes he has public melt downs when he's been overstimulated. In restaurants. In Sunday School. In church. In stores.

I am sick of people making snide remarks. I'm sick of people telling me what a "handful" he is. I am sick of those who stand in judgment and who have absolutely no clue what has brought this behavior on. Who have no idea he's overtired, overstimulated, overwhelmed. And now Cooper is close behind with the same actions. They're not brats. They're not uncontrollable. The majority of the time they're just as good, as 'in control' of themselves as most kids are. As Dylan is maturing and getting a little older, his behavior is mellowing. He listens. He reacts in positive ways.

They're good boys. Darling boys.

My boys.

And that is why I speak in defense of parents with 'spirited' children. My own two children were two of the easiest kids in the world to raise. I had never had any experience with high-spirited children before Dylan and Cooper came along. It's been an eye-opening learning experience for me. And a humbling one, too, because I used to be one of those who'd stand back in line at the grocery store and watch a harried mother try to keep her little one's hands out of the candy, out of the magazines, out of all those horribly placed 'torture' items at checkout stands that drive most parents to the brink of a breakdown. I used to be one of those who'd never say it but I'd certainly think "Why can't she control her child better in public? What kind of mother is she?"

Well, now I know. Because I get those looks, those barbed remarks the very rude ones feel it's their duty to say to me.

What kind of a grandmother am I?


I'm a wonderful grandmother. I love those little boys to the point of distraction. I work at teaching them manners. I tell them no. And no. And no. And one of these days "no" will begin to register. I know it will. I am firm. I have the patience of Job. The only thing I don't have is the abundance of endless energy I had 30 years ago when my kids were small. I wear down faster.

But, I ever sleep well at nite!

So, the next time you see parents in a store or restaurant or amusement park or wherever who look as if they could sit down and cry, who look exhausted and overwhelmed as they try to corral their 'spirited' toddler or young child....have a little sympathy. And if you had kids like that yourself and raised them and they're good adults, maybe go up and give a word of encouragement instead of staring in judgment. Let 'em know there's light at the end of the tunnel.

Let them know there's hope.


Dori said...

There must be something in my eye because, Lord, woman! It's been one of *those* days!

Someone one day made an attempt to label my son as "hyperactive" and I just about went off! Highly active--yes. Hyperactive--not a chance. When there's something that he's interested in, fascinated by, curious of he will sit absolutely engrossed forever! And then go back to bouncing off the walls. His little sister is coming up right behind him and showing the same behavior patterns. Yes, there's a reason most women have their babies in their 20's. Waiting (tho not by choice, really) until my mid-30's was probably not the best of ideas!

Public meltdowns? Truth? I no longer care what others think or what facial expressions they wear. They can just deal. And to the elderly man bagging groceries the other day who reprimanded me for disciplining my child in public (I took away the box of candy he *was* going to get because he kept asking for more after repeatedly being told no) you, sir, can either offer to babysit or you can kiss my booty. Saving that particular disciplinary action for when we got home and so far removed from the situation would have just been cruel. So, I will go about my business because I'm not about to just take them home only to figure out later how to get back to the grocery store.

Like I said, one of those days. I'm sitting here licking my battle wounds and ever so grateful that no matter how active these two are, they have both evolved into very good sleepers. But I wouldn't trade either of them for anyone else! Not a chance. In and between those meltdowns and moments I want to tear my hair out they are an absolute delight to be around.

So...thanks for the encouragement. Days like today I need all I can get!

Judy said...

My daughter has had an interesting weekend.

TOO much activity for her three. When the older two woke up from naps a bit disoriented from sleeping in a 'new' place, she was asked "What's wrong with them?"

What's. Wrong. With. THEM?

Thanks for being such a wonderful grandma to those darling boys, Kris! What a great influence you are in their lives!

Donna said...

My son was a difficult child. He had colic for over six months (puking and all, and I got SO tired of people telling me he was "just spoiled").

He was my first child. I wanted so badly to have the perfect child, not a brat like some I had seen.

He wasn't a brat. Neither was he perfect. If I could go back and change one thing, it would be to change the way I dealt with my difficult son.

Lynda said...

Well, I hate to go there, but I am...I can't stand to go to a restaurant and be around loud, intrusive children...climbing over booths, running around, screaming... geez, some people have to save for months to have one night out... to be in peace and comfort. Same with the movies. Perhaps their spouse just passed away, or they want to have a heartfelt conversation with someone, get engaged, whatever... screaming children aren't conducive to that time.

There's no problem with rowdy kids being in public, but, for the love of Pete, take them to rowdy places - Chucky Cheese, the park, a rodeo, circus, the mall!

Everyone should be able to watch a movie or have a dinner without interference from other diners.

Having said all that, I would probably be with these kids than a pack of teens!