Have I mentioned that I have a two year old? 'Tis true. And she is one HECK of a two year old. In fact, she has always been an intense child. As a baby she awoke every hour or two. (I realize this is normal.) But she always woke screaming. I would nurse her back to sleep or do whatever worked but there were never tender nighttime moments with air sucking or fist finding as my sweet one gently showed the signs of hunger. No, she is designed like a fine race car: zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds.
The intensity of babyhood has followed her into toddler-hood and she is a delightful, charming, lovely and insane, screaming, balls to the wall, child. She switches from one to the other at a moments notice.
Here is the funny thing though- when I mention some of her more distinctive "traits" people are quick to find an excuse for her.
"Maybe she has a gluten intolerance."
"Could be she has colic."
"Try taking out the dairy."
"Get her adjusted."
"Cranial therapy works wonders."
"Have you tried wearing her?"
My mom even said once that, "She is only unhappy when she doesn't get enough sleep," to which my mother- in-law (who LIVES with us and said child) responded, "She must be tired ALL THE TIME."
You know what I think though? I don't think there is anything WRONG with this girl. I don't think she can or needs to be "fixed" with an adjustment or a diet change or magical technique. I think she is just kind of....hard.
And, I am not afraid to admit it.
I could make up excuses for my child. I could blame it on something that is beyond our control. Or I could try to control the situation in every way possible. I think that I could successfully drive myself batty doing so. I could also just admit the simple yet difficult truth of the matter: some babies, children and human beings are harder. Or more intense. Or more sensitive. Or if you are lucky, they are all three.
But it seems to me that sometimes nobody wants to do this. We would much rather find an excuse, a reason, an explanation. I think it takes some of the blame off of the kid, and it makes us feel like we have a little more control over our lives than we actually do. If we can just figure out the cause, then we could fix them!!!!
The other thing that I hate to think about is how I and the way I parent contributes to the trouble I sometimes have with this sweet child.
After a hard day yesterday I was talking to my husband at dinner. I was telling him that she was difficult. There was hitting and kicking and even spitting in addition to the usual yelling of orders and general mayhem and screams. (To be clear, it was the two year old yelling orders and creating mayhem, not me. Well, mostly.)
"Doesn't she ever do that to you?" I innocently ask.
"Never," says my silver-back of a husband. "I would not put up with that."
But I am a good mom. Right....? She doesn't just do this with me, right?
I hope I AM a good mom. But the ugly truth is that I am not a perfect mom. I am not always consistent. I don't always demand respect. I let things slide when I should be firm. And, as the hubby pointed out, he doesn't put up with some of the behavior that I ignore.
Again, it would be much more pleasant to blame some ethereal factor on the hitting, spitting, kicking and what not. The truth of the matter though is that some of it probably happens because of me. A more difficult child demands a better parent. A more consistent one. A loving one. A balanced, firm, and kind parent who sets boundaries and makes sure they are not crossed.
Sometimes I can get away with some sloppier "mom" work with my other kids- but not with this one.
So when I say that this baby/child doesn't have anything "wrong" with her other than the strong personality she was born with, I don't mean it as an insult. I love her more than I can put into words. Sometimes I think that my intensity of affection for her is a result of the way she pushes me to my limit.
I am not ashamed of my difficult child. But I will also not pass the buck or find an excuse for the way she is. I am grateful for her and I am grateful for the lessons she has brought with her.
She has humbled me as a parent. I really thought I had figured things out before she was born. I knew how to handle a baby and I knew how to keep a toddler from being crazy.
I was wrong.
She shows me my flaws. She demands that I be better and stronger. She teaches me patience and joy all at the same time.
Then again, I am pretty sure she inherited her personality from her father's side of the family. So this is all really his fault. That makes me feel better.
(This article appeared originally in June of 2012 on the Mama Birth blog.)
Sarah Clark is a mother of four children between 8 and two years old. She writes about motherhood and natural birth at her blog Mama Birth. She is also a natural birth teacher and is on the management team for Birth Boot Camp, a natural birth education company which features online birth classes. The child pictured is from one of her readers.