Ever since Cade was born, we have known that he would likely be a “spirited” little dude. He was not the easiest baby, and he has always been very active and all boy. He wears his emotions on his sleeve (he totally gets that from me), and he is often the one that gets in trouble because he is very reactive and hits when he is frustrated.
We were lucky enough to find an amazing daycare provider, Shawna, that did everything she could to help us with him. She worked through all the concerns we had and all the phases he went through, and she assured me that he was normal and just a boy. And, I appreciated all the support she offered our family. Truthfully, I don’t think I could have done it without her.
She wasn’t just good for Cade; she was good for me. I have personally found the process of mothering to be very isolating, particularly if you are the parent of the spirited child — the one the all the other mothers look at and try to figure out why they are acting that way. I am here to say for the record that we are trying to figure it out too. And, the most important thing Shawna taught me is the having a spirited child isn’t a bad thing.
Recently, Shawna moved with her family to Georgia. Her husband is military as well, and we knew this was inevitable. We had already moved across town and had found a new school for Cade, so the transition wasn’t as hard as it could have been, but I do miss the “village” mentality she offered me. She always made sure to tell me all the great things he did during the day as well as the challenging things. There are a million awesome things that Cade does that I don’t see other children his age doing because he is active and into everything (and has parents that are too).
Cade started preschool two weeks ago, and I have to admit that I was terrified. There is a great family joke about one of my brothers getting kicked out of preschool for beating up on the other kids, but I was so scared that Cade was going to follow in his footsteps. At the open house the day before school started, his teacher told me that they would use the first few weeks to get used to the schedule and play, and it seemed that things were going well. I even sent the Boy a message so excited about what I saw one morning!
And, there was another incident where Cade was not the aggressor and did the right thing when another little boy bite him for using the word “poop.” I think the teacher thought I was crazy that I was so relieved that Cade was not the biter. But, that’s how you can tell that you are the parent of a spirited child.
Then, yesterday, I got this message sent home from school.
I was so bummed. We talked about it all night and talked about the fact that we will get to do fun things if he good reports all week. And, this morning I talked to his teacher more closely about how things are going. Turns out that he is relating more with the older kids and isn’t playing with the kids his own age quite as much. She asked if he had an older sibling, and I explained that he had been around older kids quite a bit. She explained that she was surprised that he was into superheroes, swords, and turning things into guns (his classmates are still interested in Thomas and things a little younger). And, she’s right. He definitely is.
But, my bubble burst a little, both about how things were going and about what was “normal.” Cade is an older three year old, and he has had the opportunity to play with older kids quite a bit. Even at Shawna’s where there were two other tiny humans his age, he often opted to play with her older son. And, the whole interchange with his teacher made me question something I deemed as normal. He loves Spiderman, the Avengers, and Batman, and he likes to watch the older cartoons related to those characters.
Now, I am questioning whether or not those things are too old for him right now and whether or not we have done something wrong by allowing him to follow his interest. My gut reaction is no. We don’t buy toy guns and things like that, but sometimes his action figures come with tiny exaggerated weapons similar to those my brothers played with as kids. We don’t try to stop every sword fight, but we don’t offer toys that are meant for them either.
The teacher’s comments this morning worried me because I don’t want the people he looks up to think he isn’t normal, particularly his teachers in these formative years. I want them to remember that there are several things he does that are advanced for his age, like the fact that he has awesome manners and raises his hand to be called on and is incredibly sweet, not just his preferred method of playing. I want to figure out a way to call attention to his good qualities as well as recognize those things that need to be adjusted without feeling like I am just making excuses for his behavior.
So, I guess that’s what I will be working on, both for him and me. For him, continuing to talk about how he should be behaving in school and at home and which behaviors are appropriate where. And, for me, I will be working on finding my voice to stand up for my son. Because even though it is frustrating at times, I know that I definitely don’t want to break that spirit that makes him who he is.