Monday, September 12, 2011

Hi, I'm Emily- The One With The Rough Kid





As a high school teacher I always loved the 'naughty' kids the most, the ones that were resistant to following the rules and questioned the boundaries. They were interesting, challenging and funny.

 So, when I was pregnant with the Young Man I would always say 'I hope I have a cheeky child, one that speaks his mind and is rebellious in nature'. I recall saying this to my mum; she gave a wry smile and knowingly said 'I'm sure you will, darling'.

I suppose it's no great surprise that I did indeed have a boisterous child and it turns out that it's a lot more difficult than I had expected (duh). The Young Man is full on. Like really full on. He does not sit still, not even for a moment. He loses interest in activities quickly, is demanding, loud and can be rough. I'll be honest, I have spent quite a bit of time feeling embarrassed, even ashamed about his behaviour. Wondering what I have done to make him so crazy. I have heard him called 'angry and aggressive', I have been looked at like a failure by shop assistants and stared down by other mothers at play centers and parks. At times I have been filled with despair, overwhelmed at being responsible for this wild child, for his entire life. My internal monologue about my son became increasingly negative and dark.

Enter 'Raising Your Spirited Child', a book lent to be by my friend Fi. I'm 40 pages in and I have already both laughed and cried (gosh, so hallmark of me). It discusses the characteristics of a 'Spirited' child and, in the second chapter, explores the use of labels when addressing said child.

"Spirited kids seem to beg for labels- and not very positive ones. All kids get called a few names, but spirited kids manage to garner an overabundance of awful, miserable and poorly designed labels that seem to stick.
Most of us find ourselves facing an array of labels spoken and unspoken that affect how we think, feel and act toward our spirited children. If we are going to build a healthy relationship with them, we must lay the labels out on the table, dissect them, and redesign those that make us and our kids feel lousy- the ones that cloud our vision and hide the potential within.
Focusing on the positive labels may even allow you to recognise that your child really is the one you dreamed of having."

So- to the bin with descriptions such as aggressive, stubborn, demanding, wild and impatient. Lets raise our enlightened glasses to assertive, goal oriented, high standard holding, energetic and compelling children.

I look forward to discovering new things about how to raise The Young Man well, about meeting him where he is at, rather than where 'all the other kids' are at. I'm excited about adjusting my expectations and enjoying him more. Because lets be honest, that kid is excellent... most of the time.

Tell me, do you have a Spirited Child?


You can read more about Raising Your Spirited Child here

and enter my giveaway here

57 comments:

  1. Yes. Yes I do and I can completely relate. I know you dont think so, but Inda between 2-3yrs of age was absolutely emotionally and physically exhausting and I did have times where I felt distant from her and felt so guilty about it. But you know what? She is awesome and I would not swap her personality for anything. She has been given this determination and strong will by God and instead of being ashamed and embarassed by that aspect of her I am learning to love and embrace it! I am daily impressed by her and the amazing little girl she is growing into. We still have our days but so do all parents. Joey is great em and you are doing a great job.

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  2. Inda is an angel... it fills me with hope. Maybe we could be filled with wine and hope together sometime and i can cry on your knowing shoulder!?

    xo em

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  3. Em I was a bit of a spirited child.. as in the kind that threw tantrums because my mum wouldnt buy me a lolly, as in the kind of tantrums where i would throw myself on the floor beating my fists, my mum and i got through it and i rarely throw tantrums like that now ;)

    Your little man is awesome, I love his spirited ways and you are great with him Em! I've seen him in calm moments and wonderfully crazy moments and you really do a great job, I love seeing you parent your kiddies, makes me excited for when i have my own

    Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  4. You threw tantrums!!?? You naughty girl, your poor mother- now give me her number, im in need of a life coach!

    It's true, you have seen it all. Thanks for the encouragement lady. you know i feel it.
    xxxxxxxxxxx

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  5. oh but em he has such a sweet heart! And that gorgeous grin.. irresistible! "Spirited" is a beautiful way to describe him...and I love that he is Che's little friend and that they can go a little crazy together.

    You're a gorgeous, creative, loving Muma and completely inspire me with how you parent your bubas x

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  6. Are you sure you are not talking about my little man? I swear you are :)

    I need to get my hands on a copy of that book asap.

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  7. My little 'spirited' man turns 15 this Sunday, there have been days where he kills me,(he climbed up got bread from the freezer and made himself toast at 5.30am when he was 18months!!) but soooo loveable. He recently got his first part time job and almost overnight has turn into a big man, so mature and beautiful to spend time with but still 'spirited'!!

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  8. Yep, the Munchkin is most definitely spirited... Have had that book for a little while and it has been PURE GOLD! I recently picked up another book by Louise Porter called Children are People Too, which is a bit more "Australian" in manner, and great for when they move past the toddler years (which Raising your Spirited Child is supposed to deal with, but is less effective with children who refuse to do ANYTHING you ask unless it was their idea first!). I too wanted a go-getter kids, and although I feel like I've been hit by a Mack Truck after spending a day with him, I'm so glad I have one. These kids are gifts...

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  9. Fantastic post my lovely! Yes I think I have 2 of those! My 2 are always testing our strength as parents, pushing the boundaries and tearing up the rule book. But I LOVE that! I love that they are unique incomparison to their peers. Dull is not a word used around here much. Off to look at that link and that book! I reckon it too could do with some help. I realised they are like this because WE are like this... loud, out there, creative kids too! Lou xx

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  10. Yes, I do have one VERY spirited child and another really compliant, placid child (generally speaking). Had heard about this book and would love to read it too :)

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  11. Yes, my two are both very spirited, active little ones! both started walking at 10 months and have not stopped running since! They are full on and hard work! But i wouldnt change it for the world, who wants a kid that just sits there right? They challenge me daily and i find focusing their energy and wearing them out with more physical activities helps to calm the assertive side.
    i can see you are a great mama Em, they are very lucky to have you. xx

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  12. You go girl! :) I always loved the "spirited" children in my primary class too (not all the time, mind you, but at the end of the year they were the ones I had spent more effort and time with, and I missed them when they moved on to the next class).
    The Young Man was designed with a purpose. You get to help grow him along the journey. :) Enjoy the ride.
    S xo

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  13. I read that book when my son was 18 months and it helped immensely. Both my kids are intense, creative, boundary pushers who are very very busy. Frankly the apple does not fall far from the tree, however this came as a shock to me as I think I had not factored this detail in prior to having them. Perhaps would have chosen a more laid back husband to tone it down a bit! My son has been extremely challenging socially since around age 2 often bringing me to the edge of despair and shame that I could not "tame" him. He has turned the corner at age 4 and now has a prep teacher who thinks he is so delightful that she misses him if he is home sick. My tips would be to avoid any friends who have girl children as you will always look like a total failure in comparison (eg their girls are drawing pretty pictures while your child is donking another kid on the head with a toy hammer) and wear the boy out. Go out every morning somewhere and get the kid a walking bike and hit the road every afternoon. Oh yes and make friends with someone who has a child that is worse, that always helps. melx

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  14. Hmmmm... isn't 'spirited' just another label? Ah, whatever you call them, they are what they are and one day they will be responsible for themselves and we can just breathe out. I think. x

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  15. YES! I have a very full on child & according to the parentals it is payback for what I put them through.

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  16. For spirited read intelligent. He does not just passively accept the world because his brain is racing, working & thinking. Yes you want your children not to be met with a groan when you are out & about but he looks like he is having the most amazing & imaginative game and the cutest face ever.
    When my Fergus was a toddler he was very difficult - 5/6 full on tantrums a day. I am pleased to tell you that at 14 he is the sweetest, most sociable thoughtful teen in my pack. You never know how things will turn out. Whats that saying? It is the quiet ones you have to watch!

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  17. Hi Emily - thanks for your post on my blog the other day - so appreciate you dropping by :) Hope it's ok, but I have added a link to your blog in my post today?? Let me know if it's a problem, and I'm happy to remove it. Thanks x
    Sheridan - botswanababy.blogspot.com

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  18. Oh Emily, he looks like a joy, seriously, I can see it in his bright eyes. As someone who has 2 incredibly 'spirited' boys, I can relate. With Mr3 I had many of those hang my head in shame moments of embarrassment at the park or play centre or kid's party. But thankfully, I did have a great number of people point out how funny and interesting and unique he is too. I think I'm finally starting to see that now, as he nears the age of 4. Mr1 is quite possibly more over the top than his older brother. Funnily enough their personalities are quite different, but the gusto and enthusiasm is ever present in him. I am quite the 'helicopter Mama' at the park right now, as he doesn't go 'searching' for trouble, but he doesn't shy away from it either! Happy to go the biff :o/ I think we all just need to embrace the spirited ones, they're just kids after all xo

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  19. I too have read this book. I also came across this name for energetic (wild) little ones in the baby whisperer book. She breaks baby/toddler personalities into various types. Angel is one, a couple others, and spirited. I so wanted my little lady to be angel baby, read the key traits again and again, but alas she ticks spirited all the way. So I embrace the name for her energy, at mums group the other little bubs are sitting playing with beep beep toys or nibbling a muesli bar, my cherub is scaling a picnic table reaching for a ceiling fan, screaming EE II EE II Ooooo, and I happily think, it's all good, she's just spirited;)
    Great advice in that book, enjoy it.

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  20. Even if it's still a label "spirited" is much better than "feral" which is what my monkey of gets called a lot! I often despair at the fact he's corrupting my older, calmer child but then again we probably all need a little corrupting sometimes. Your boy is gorgeous and thanks for the heads up on the book!

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  21. Love this post Em, my Cooper may only be 18months, but i think 'Spirited' is a perfect way to describe him, and I am heading over to check out that book and prepare myself for the future!
    Rhi xx

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  22. As a preschool teacher those little boy have a special place in my heart. I have a busy boy.

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  23. Well neither of my kids are calm and placid that is for sure. Kitty is easier than Harrington but she is just me..a little mini me smart arse.. so I know how to deal with her. Harrington is fast developing into a "spirited child" at the moment I put it down to his late talking but I think that may just be me re assuring my self :)

    I do however have a best mate who has a VERY spirited child and yes she is the one who get stared at and labelled alot..the thing is it is only by people who don't know her so who gives a monkeys?!. I know her and I love her and her "Sambonator" (yes her name is Sammy, Sambo the Terminator) hence Sambonator. She has destroyed endless things in my house, she scales my pantry,tries to climb over fences and on top of cubby roofs, she pulls up plants in the garden, constantly gets any expensive cosmetics she can and smears them anywhere she can...she has even pooed on my floor twice (both when her Mum wasn't here)...my point here?.. she is clearly a nightmare in most peoples books but I love her and I welcome her in my house any day of the week, warts n all and its only the peeps that you love that count so you go raise your spirited child the way that suits him and maybe adopt my girlys attitude, she says "Sammy you better be something special for all the hassle you have caused us but we will love you even if you are not"

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  24. I've got a feeling Lalie has got a one way ticket to Spiritville up her sleeve. My little demon... I mean "sprited baby" is only 8 months! God help me when she starts walking! But I wouldn't have it any other way - she has bags of personality and 'spirit' and even though sometimes it might exhaust me, overall she really does energize our life. x
    From your blog, Zeph seems like he has one big imagination and a fun sense of adventure... and after all, someone's gotta keep you on your toes, right? X

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  25. I am going to have to read this book because my little guy certaintly qualifies as a spirited child so you definitely are not alone! (And I am glad to see I am not alone!)

    New follower from the Alexa blog hop! gotomommy.blogspot.com

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  26. Thank you for this. It's posts like this that keep me logging into my Blogger daily. It's posts like this that make me remind myself that it's not only my kid that is 'Spirited". I have left the park many times after one too many tantrums or felt guilty for raising my voice one too many times. Let's hear it for the spirited kids....for it's these kids that add joy, excitement and fun into our lives....and we know all too well that if we had them any other way - we would miss them like crazy! Thanks for sharing. I am off to check out the book now!!

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  27. He he he....I think it is the clever ones who are "spirited". Not content to sit in the corner and accept things the way they are. These "spirited" ones need to know the if, and's, why's and but's. They are the one's that think outside the box, the funniest, cheekiest and spunkiest of the lot. I LIKE the "spirited" one's and think the world would be a wee bit boring and alot less fun with out them! I LOVE my spirited kiddies and although they are tiring and full on...I wouldn't have them any other way.

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  28. Hi Emily,As the mother of this spirited young man's mother I feel I am in a position to comment on your insightful post! Joe Joe is an enthusiastic liver of life, he is bright, gregarious, inquisitive, curious, energetic and so much fun to be around. I know how exhausting he can be.... because I had a spirited child a long time ago. She has grown into a strong, creative,intelligent wonderful woman. She is also a loving mother and daughter. I used to wonder why , as a child you had the strength of character and determination that you did, but as life threw you many challenges I was thankful to God that you were such a spirited child.I can attest to the fact that God does not give you more than you can manage.I wouldn't have wished you to be any other way Em.

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  29. Thankyou so much for this post! My little boy is definitely very spirited and it's wonderful to read about other kids like him! He has the best of intentions and can be the sweetest of children... when he slows down enough to remember... he's just so full of energy and curiousity. I feel I can deal with most things (just!)... until his baby sister gets hurt in the wake as he just can't remember his affectionate 'hugs' shouldn't be around the neck and tackling her to the ground isn't on! I will be looking for the book pronto!

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  30. Oh Em, your mum is the sweetest. And I do have to admit, I see some of you in J - I remember the girl I used to sit next to in high school ;) xxx

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  31. How beautiful is that comment from your Mum! There are so many challenges as a parent, we somehow need to find within the most insane level of patience (I haven't found mine yet!). I'm not sure about where Olive sits on the spirited scale, but I have noticed recently, that the more 'present' I am with her, the less problems there are. If I go and get ready or get food or something that takes me away, for example, that's when all hell can break loose. It's easy for me to say hold your head up and don't let other Mums bother you, but I've felt embarrassed by Olive in public before too, it's awful to feel like everyone's eyes are on you. Just keep your faith that you're doing a brilliant job. We can all see that you're giving him the unconditional love he needs and everything'll be ok. Kellie xx
    PS a few days ago we went to the park and I saw some friends there and went over to say and hi Olive started screaming because GOD FORBID we get to the park and not go directly to the swings. It all went down hill from there, she was whingy and then stole a bag and grapes and wouldn't share them with the rightful owners ("mine grapes!! mine grapes!!") and she wouldn't let any other kids touch any of the equipment she was on. Hope this story of my own embarrassment helps.

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  32. PPS You mean to say that angelic faced sweet cheeky boy up there is the one causing all the problems?!?

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  33. Some of the mothers at the mothers group I used to go to called Cohen a 'spirited' child and thought he was so 'intense' compared to their own children. I always left our meetings with mixed feelings and concerns about my expectations of Cohen. Sometimes I was embarrassed, because while their children sat nicely and sang nursery rhymes, mine ran through the library knocking as many books as possible off the shelves with his arms out like an airplane, ignoring me. The other mothers all felt sorry for me, except one, whose youngest boy had been exactly the same as Cohen. And you know what? All those other mothers fell by the wayside but I still catch up with that one mother from mothers group and she has always been accepting, supportive and a good friend. I always leave her presence feeling happy and proud of Cohen. :)

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  34. he's spirited and sometimes downright obnoxious. but he's also a wonderful child who makes top grades, does everything he's asked at home and is in several sports/extracirricular activities. i wouldn't change him at all, even the smart mouth.

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  35. that is so wonderful to hear.. he looks so cute! I liked reading your writing.. you're a really good writer:) p.s. I entered a blogger contest and I really need you to 'like' my picture.. it only takes a second. And the contest only runs until this Friday! I'd really appreciated. here is an explanation: http://cyliaaaa.blogspot.com/2011/09/tag.html

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  36. I love this post! My girl is nearly 9 months old and she is so energetic and determined. When she is happy there is a definite cheeky streak but when she is unhappy she lets everyone know LOUD and clear. And she never sits still! I haven't joined a mothers group (yet) for fear of feeling like the odd one out and feeling judged. Whenever I go out people comment on how 'busy', 'alert' and 'active' she is. I never realised bubs personalities can be so strong from early on. I actually ordered this book a week ago and can't wait to read it.

    I'm not a fan of labels but I do think kids with these strong personalities have spunk!

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  37. lottie pearl has not sat still since birth. my mum laughs. i said i wanted a kid with pep. i've got one. whilst she's a total handful at only 9 months old, she's a GREAT handful. i feel energised by her energy. people do look on with envy sometimes saying "i wish my baby was so bubbly and energetic, she's always so happy, mine just sits and doesn't do anything". so, so far i've felt lucky! but as they get more mobile and lottie pearl face rakes every baby in sight, inducing tears, i'm starting to get a feel for what may come. i was always labelled a 'mouth of the south' and 'elizabeth taylor' so i'm determined to let her grow and develop free of those labels. anyway - my job is to absorb this energy and direct it, right?
    and i have heard that book is amazing!!!
    hooray for kids with PEP!

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  38. My ten month old is already full of go! Doesn't like to sleep, too much going on. Rarely sits still is very loud and vocal and strong willed. But she is absolutely gorgeous...cheeky grin, hearty chuckles, bright eyes and a desire to learn. Wouldn't have it any other way! Oh and just today she pulled a big glass container off a counter while I was out shopping. She was in the carrier and before I knew it she had swiftly pulled at it to get a closer look...and down it came contents and all. Did it break? YEP! Did I get some funny looks? Of course! Was I embarressed? Slightly. Did people talk when I left? Dunno and you know what...if they did, good luck to them. Enjoy your spirited boy. He has a gorgeous sparkle in his eyes!

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  39. Love this post! I too have a 'spirited' two year old - she looks somewhat cherubic with curly blonde hair and big blue eyes! Ha! Looks can be deceiving!!! She is cheeky, curious, full of beans, never sits still, rarely sleeps and loves to antagonise her older brother and sister! I am exhausted, and it is so reassuring to hear of others with similar children! Hats off to our 'spirited' little people...

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  40. Thanks so much for this book link. My 2nd is most definitely a spirited child! And, at 4, has been labelled everything under the sun already. Shits me no end (the labelling). I can sooo relate to this post.
    I'll admit,we have travelled an exhausting road with her, but I wouldn't change that determined spirit of hers for anything. It is who she is and I LOVE her for it.
    I have no idea if this is applicable to your kiddo at all, but I did change my little one's diet, quite radically, and a lot of the aggression and moodiness and inability to focus changed dramatically. It was amazing. She is a much happier girl for it (and yet remains as beautifully spirited as ever, just not as destructive, chaotic and tear-inducing!!). I blogged about it here: http://www.thebyronlife.com/2011/03/gentle-changes-dramatic-results-adhd.html

    Absolutely love your blog, your photography, and your attitude to parenting your little guy. Beautiful.

    x
    Megan

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  41. I have a spirited 5 and a half year old daughter. She is delightful, but a handful, and "on" constantly. It certainly makes like interesting (and noisy!).

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  42. my mum always said hse wished I had a chld like me so I would understand. i hope she meant it in a nice way... now I have Aidan, yep I get it!! and I love every single minute of it..even those "spirited" moments.
    i love your awesome honesty Em!

    I really wanted to pop round & see how you are are. hope you r ok today lovely girl ♥

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  43. Hi thanks for your post - I too have a spirited Little Man now 8 - he is one of 3 and they are all so different!! He is the one of the biggest joys and at times to be honest worries of my life- but here is why (only people with kids like this 'get it') he is kind, loving, empathetic, honest, loyal and bright and so much fun however he is also determined, strong willed and sure of what he thinks and wants and has always been ready to step up the the negotiation plate. Kids like this (in my experience) and I was also a teacher are so honest and open- I learnt when he was quite young that I had to protect him as not everyone saw the great kid that I saw and not everyone looks at the world in shades of grey. I chose to mix with fantastic friends who were real and saw him for the amazing kid he is so I say to you Trust in him and know that this spirt will be the making of a man who will row his own boat and he one of the 'pirates' of the world ( not everyone can be comfortable in the Navy) sorry for the essay !

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  44. Ha I think every child is 'spirited' in their own different way dontcha think? I can see us all sitting in the principal's office in 10 years time saying, "so & so isn't naughty. Just spirited! Honestly."

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  45. Hey Em, what a great and honest post. I can empathise with you on those feelings, today we left the park as punishment (again) after Rosie thumped some kid (again). I do think high-energy kids have been given to us for a reason, hopefully we're the people that are going to read books like the one you mention and work out how to channel all of that into a positive outcome. Fingers crossed.

    Cute photos. Next time I'm up to see Jodi we'll have to get the crickets to have a wild play together :)

    xx

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  46. I must get me that book. I've heard of it, but it's really time to read it.

    And yes, I'm drawn to the cheeky kids too. They're just more interesting. It just so happens I have two very interesting children now.

    Happy days!

    xx

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  47. What a fantastic post Emily and what an amazing and thoughtful (as in completely full of thought for your child) mother you are. I kept thinking when I read it how lucky your son is to have you on his team! There are so many children who's parents just kind of give up and their supposed 'naughty' children start believing they are and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    I have an amazing almost 9 yr old who had me completely on my toes all the way through toddler hood and turns out, now that he's older, he his an incredibly bright, engaging, seriously smart, empathetic and utter champion of a young fellow. I'm so glad I had a mother who totally believed in my ability to raise him and a husband who was on board and supportive. Not to mention enough friends to shield me from the nonsense and games that other mothers play. And what's up with that bs anyway? Whatever happened to the sisterhood y'all.
    I don't know you but from what I can see you have a great deal of support around you, not to mention a wonderful mother and husband. You are all lucky to have each other.
    And all your readers are lucky to have you Emily and all your great posts! Although I'm about to head overseas and I'm worried up the catch up I'm going to be doing when I get back! I'm averaging about a week behind as it is :) xx

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    1. Hey Madeline, what a stunning comment. thanks for your encouragement- i feel it!

      xo em

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  48. Hi Emily, I'm just catching up on some of your old posts as a new reader and wondered if you'd still recommend the book. I have two "spirited" boys to say the very least! :) Your little man sounds like both of mine though my older one is slightly more of a people pleaser so can be easier to steer on some days! x

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    1. hey Cat! Lovely to have you here, thanks for taking the time to comment!

      I still reference the book now- mostly as a reminder on how to be patient and understanding and compassionate!

      If you can get your hand on a copy, i would do it! It truly is amazing!

      xo em

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  50. Ooohh my goodness as I was reading this I was thinking that sounds exactly like Levi my 22 month old. Today in his 'Mini Movers' class he was a little rough with one of the boys and the mother gave me a disapproving look and I felt horrible. I also noticed in a class of 5 other kids he was the only one constantly running, talking and sometimes throwing a tantrum. All the other kids were quiet, timid and shy and I thought what's wrong with my kid? why is he so different? But you're absolutely right there's nothing wrong with him or being different and we as parents should celebrate our spirited children :)

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  51. hi Em,
    Thankyou so much for letting us know we are not alone & about this book. Its is changing our lives I'm off to share it with my sisters as it seems we all have spirited kids ! go figure it must be the DNA
    Thankyou thankyou thankyou
    Jayleen

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  52. Hi there ... watching Downton Abbey series 3 on DVD last night (this is not a spoiler, promise!) and the Lady Dowager or whatever she's called, Maggie Smith anyway (who gets all the best lines) says:

    "Oh, I'd forgotten about parenting ... the on and on-ness of it." Love it. Too true!

    (of course then she had to admit that she only saw her own children when they were brought by nannies to spend an hour in the evening with her, and she says "well, yes ... but it was an hour EVERY SINGLE DAY!")

    The on and on and on-ness of it. In Buddhist terms, our children are such wonderful teachers ... patience, compassion ... they are not things you can learn quickly or shallowly.

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  53. I so do have a spirited child. And it's no wonder.. I'm spirited myself! I love that book. It can be so isolating feeling like everybody, or maybe their children, are just better than you. Why is it my kid is the only one running around and everyone else has managed to keep theirs sitting quietly? I have learned to adjust my expectations of my children and of myself. We choose our "in public" times very carefully.

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Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em