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An Open Letter To My Spirited Child

By Vicki Little

To my spirited son,

This summer has certainly been, as you would say, epic. It wasn’t that we did anything unusual, although I was impressed with how you kept your lunch down after going on the big roller coaster for the first time. It was simply that this year was filled with marathon debates, award-winning rationalizations and excuses, and never-before-seen numbers of attempts to count until we were calm. It was a real turning point for us. This will go down as the summer that I learned to live with a headstrong lawyer-in-training.

Your grandma definitely worked her magic when she cursed me with a child just as ornery as me, someone with just as much sass, stubbornness, and doublespeak. Many times I crawled into bed feeling like I was hit by a 2-by-4, wondering how my promise to stand my ground and stay patient only lasted an hour. You are amazing at negotiating with me. It didn’t take you long to realize that in my desperation to find what works for you, I haven’t been very consistent.    I don’t blame you for trying. You deserve a consistent parent so I won’t give up. I can be stubborn, too. Really, though, I am glad for this trait of yours. I foresee you talking your way out of a lot of punishments, but I also see someone that isn’t willing to give in to pressure or be deceived easily.

I am actually quite surprised that with your flair for the dramatic, you have not taken an interest in theater. However, it does serve you well in your refusal to give in to the typical roles of a parent/child relationship. You demand to be heard when you feel that something is unjust. (Though I hate to break it to you — I actually WANT to go to bed at 8:30.) And you manage to find every teeny, tiny loophole in statements I make. (For future reference, when I say no soda I mean no carbonated beverages other than sparkling water … even if it doesn’t specifically say soda and even if it is already flat). Yes, my dear son, there have been more than a few times when tears welled in my eyes as you stomped off, declaring this to be yet another of the “worst days ever.” While this strong-willed and justice-seeking attitude of yours drives me absolutely insane and sometimes breaks my heart, I am proud of you for being someone who knows what he believes in, is willing to stand up for it, and finds creative ways to accomplish a goal. I’ve also learned that the best method of “reaching” you isn’t by punishing you, but rather by talking things out and compromising — skills that will serve you well as a future husband and father.

I can see the frustration in your eyes when you feel out of control. Mainly, I can see it because when I look in the mirror, it is the same look I see in my own eyes. You have ideas and plans that only get hindered when adults come around. You want to test everything, do everything in a fun, creative way, and live your life to the fullest. And somehow my schedules, lists of chores, and demands on your time are just not lining up with your idea of how you want to live your life. I get it. I know this frustration comes out as anger and you don’t mean the disrespect you are showing. I know that you just want to make me understand. But I do understand you. And I understand the world you will have to live in — and this is something that you just aren’t ready to accept yet.

I watch you when you don’t think I am looking. I watch how sweet and kind you are to little kids, how you trap bugs just to let them outside, where they can be free, and how it hurts you when someone else is sad and you try desperately to make them feel better. Your heart is so big and full of compassion that your emotions actually pulse right out of your body without you being able to control them. That is hard because many times, those emotions may come flying out when we are in public or on the playground. Then I become angry because I am embarrassed. Not because of you, sweet boy, but because I do not have the skills to help you. I become hurt because kids can be mean — especially when they don’t understand someone as unique and amazing as you.

To be honest, I often feel like you deserve a better mom than me. One who is more patient and understanding. One who remembers that if I can just calm down and speak to you calmly, you respond much better. One that can bite her tongue and be consistent in her discipline. When you were just a sweet little newborn in my arms, I remember telling your dad that you were absolutely perfect, and we hadn’t yet made a mistake. How I wish I could go back to that day and try again, filled with the knowledge that I have now. But I wouldn’t change one single thing about you.

You, my dear, are the child who challenges me to be a better person. You remind me that everyone, no matter how young or old, deserves to be given respect, rather than being forced to earn it. You model forgiveness when I make a mistake. You teach me to truly think about what someone is trying to say instead of thinking about how to refute them. You show me that if I will only allow everyone to calm down first, the conversations we can have will be both powerful and effective. You have loved me so unconditionally that I can’t help but want everyone to feel that same acceptance. You make me a better person, simply by being the perfect son for me.

And one day, my spiritedly perfect son, one day, you will learn to separate all of those crazy emotions. One day you will make a difference — and not just in one person’s day, but in this world. One day, you will be a fearless leader, not a trendsetter and certainly not a follower. And on that day — just as yesterday, today, tomorrow and every day in between — you will make me proud. And all the blood, sweat, and tears it took to get us there will be well worth it.

Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.


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