Saturday, June 8, 2013

On raising the spirited child ...

In all the years we dreamed for a baby, we thought about a lot of things. We dreamed that s/he would be cute, that s/he would be smart, that they would grow up to be something wonderful and world changing.

One thing that we never really dwelled on was their temperament. It turns out - we should have.

On September 23, 2011 we delivered 9 pounds, 1 ounce of very determined squish.

From the gate, John was .... difficult. He HATED to sleep. Hated it. He cried most of the day because he was exhausted, but there was so much to see, and so much to look at, that he would fight sleep until it finally smacked him in the face. 

We affectionately named him the dictator. Because he was. One squawk from John would send the three of us running for something, anything, to stop the meltdown that was forthcoming. Because once John started, he wouldnt stop. Ever. It was like he was punishing us for not responding fast enough. 

A colic-ky baby is something that is very hard to understand unless youve been there. And, not to take away from anyones experience, but true colic is rarely solved with reflux meds, or with formula supplementing, ect. True colic is the kind where there is NOTHING you can do to make it better. There is NOTHING that the kid needs that you can give to him. You can rock, and shush, and gas drop, and colic calm until your eyeballs pop out, but it wont do a spot of good.

This was John.

You could SEE how tired he was most of the time. He was like a frat boy on a 4 month bender at this point. 

Everyone assured me he would grow out of it. And while some days I didnt know how we were going to get through it, most of the time I knew that, no matter how hard it was at the time, someday this would be something we would laugh at. And I have to say, eventually things got "better".

Once he started to get more mobile, he was a lot happier. Mind you, this was five months. John wanted to GO, and he wanted to go NOW.

But even though things changed, they didnt change like I thought they would. The colic spells lessened, but I had never seen a baby attack life with such vigor as John. He was loud, he was high speed, he still nursed constantly, he was on the go constantly, he laughed loudest, he cried loudest. He knew what he wanted, all the time, even when he was just a teeny tiny. 

Yes, you. 

About the time that I just imagined I was failing as a parent, a friend who also had a tiny dictator (we can spot our own) introduced me to Dr. Sears's section on the "high needs baby". 

Thank you! Finally, someone who totally understands what John is about. Words like "intense", "draining", "demanding", all the things that let me know that someone REALLY understood what life was like with a John. 

Dr. Sears was the first to convince me that there was nothing wrong with John. And there was nothing wrong with me. That its not because I fail to set a schedule, or that there is some inherent flaw in our genetics.

Its just the way he is. 

Seems like a cop out, doesnt it? I dont mean that we arent responsible for a lot of things. Anyone can tell you that I devote my life to this kid. We dont do a lot without him, I am very proactive about learning, playgroups, whatever we can do to explore and grow our minds. But while I am responsible for teaching him morals, right from wrong, responsibility, I didnt make him WHO he is, to the core.

And, although it sounds awful, its not always the worst thing ever. As John has grown, we have marveled in his personality. 

For as many times as he is headstrong, difficult, impossible, determined, or tantruming (which, is often) he has just as many times where he is hilarious, curious, animated, and entertaining. 

Ive come to realize that most people will never understand why I am still so quick to head off any incidents. Why I will leave to get him from daycare (that I have finally put him in for a few hours a week! Im socializing him) because sometimes I just know when John is having a John day - and honestly, during those days its not fair to him or to anyone else to ask him to be out of his element. 

A lot of people say that they have no idea what Im talking about when I say how "bad" he is. I take that as a compliment, because that means that Im doing my job well. I think it means that Im a good mom, and that I know when John has had enough, or is about to break down in a serious way, and I know how to head it off.

A kid like John takes a lot of pre-planning. I must know where the exits are at all times. I must always have something distracting, or the knowledge that were going to be 15 minutes late for everything. 

It means in the future that we have to allot for a lot of sports and physical activity, because he has way more energy than anyone Ive ever met, and we have to direct him to safe and healthy outlets for that energy. It means he's likely going to struggle in school, because it will require a level of concentration that he may not posses. 

But it also means that we have a little entertainer. We have a kiddo who runs and runs and runs, but then he crashes and is the sweetest cuddler youve ever met. We have a kid who loves to be kissed, hugged, loved on, ect. 

We have a kid who feels so safe with us that he has no fear. That might be a bad thing, but it shows that he doesnt doubt that mommy and daddy are right there to pick him up - and at this age, thats how it should be. I dont want him to be self reliant yet. I want him to need me, even with another baby on the way, because he is a baby, and I am his mommy. And mommy isnt a job that lasts forever - you morph into "mom" way before you know it, and theres no going back.

Ive also heard stories of another high needs baby. He cried for seven months straight, he was as hyperactive as they come, he was always INTO something and was in the ER more times than anyone could count. He was exhausting and demanding and animated ... he was just like John, so the story goes. Then he grew up, and he became a man who used his un-ending determination to marry a girl, and to love her so much that they made a baby that he was the best father in the world to. That little dictator grew up into one of the best men Ive ever had the pleasure of knowing.

They say the apple doesnt fall far from the tree, after all.

So, I continue to attempt to be the perfect mother to this kid. Some days I cannot imagine making it until bedtime, especially when weve had 4 battles at 743 am and there is no daddy, or grandma, or auntie around for backup. Some days I fall into bed and think, I cannot possibly do that again.

But then I think of one of my favorite quotes. 

Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.” – Joan Ryan

And I know that God made John exactly who he is. One day, his determination, his persistence, his overwhelming zest for life will serve him in exactly the purpose it should. I know enough to know that he is just who he is because he was created for a purpose. And while I may have carried and birthed him, he belongs to a higher purpose ... and Im not even trying to argue with that. 

Although, I do plan on using these blogs to work my way into the REALLY nice nursing home. 

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