I hope that this series of posts regarding spirited children has been illuminating and supportive. The final characteristic of spirited children I would like to explore is adaptability.
“Spirited children are uncomfortable with change. They hate surprises and do not shift easily from one activity or idea to another. If they are expecting hot dogs on the grill for supper, heaven forbid if you come home and suggest going out to a restaurant. Even if it is their favorite restaurant, they’ll say, “No, I want hot dogs.”
-from ‘Raising Your Spirited Child’ by Mary Kurcinka
My most vivid recollection of my oldest son overreacting to change was when he was a toddler. I had this plan. Isn’t it funny how as parents we think we can make logical plans? Well, I was a still a rookie. My ‘logic’ was since I was expecting baby number two very soon and that my husband worked long hours, I needed to think of a way to get some help. I decided I would enroll my oldest in a preschool three mornings a week. I did this about two months before his brother was due. I thought this would give him plenty of time to adjust to his school. This way, when I was overwhelmed by my newborn (never an easy stage for me), I would have this school time in place to keep my toddler happily occupied. It sort of, kind of, maybe almost worked. Almost.
Here was my challenge. My oldest didn’t want to go to school nor did he want to return home once I got him there. It made no sense. He fought me to go, he sometimes fought harder to come home. When I would go to pick him up as soon as he would see me, he would become furious. He would stop and from a standing position, launch himself at full velocity backwards to let me know he was NOT leaving with me.
Looking back on it, I realize it had a lot less with him liking or hating school, or how he felt about me for that matter. He did not like change. He liked his routine at home and this whole business of going to a school with teachers, kids and structured activity did not sit well with him. Then, after it seemed he got adjusted to being in a school setting, he didn’t like it when I swooped in to take him home.
I soon had to realize that his tantrums were going to be a natural part of any new process. I’m not going to say that I loved all the tantrums (oh, and there were many and they were legendary), but I loved my kid. And, yes, it was difficult to remember this love on some of our very worst days.
Kids generally don’t come in a complacent, perfectly well-behaved package. They often are so different from what we thought they would be. It in these times of head-scratching and sometimes infuriating behavior where our kids teach us. We learn compassion, patience, acceptance and what it means to truly love unconditionally. That’s the greatest gift and challenge of raising spirited kids.
I wish you well on the journey.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent
Kurcinka, M.S. Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense-Sensitive-Perceptive-Persistent-Energetic (Revised Edition). 2006 New York, New York. HarpersCollins Publishers Inc.