When my first daughter was born eleven years ago, she was very slightly jaundiced. The doctors asked us to bring her back in to the hospital just a few days after birth, to do blood tests and make sure all her levels were acceptable. I still remember laying my little bundle down on the table for the sweet nurse to prick her tiny heel and gather the blood necessary for the lab work. She held my little one’s struggling foot in her hand…then asked me to help hold the baby….and once she finally managed to get the sample, she looked at me with wide eyes. “She is strong,” the nurse informed me.
Little did we know….
At four months, I was so exhausted from simply surviving her presence that I chose to take her to the Mom’s Day Out where I was taking my two-year-old son once a week. Looking back, I’m slightly horrified–she was four months old! But I remember my desperation for any kind of break from the crying. There was the colic; you could set your watch by her: at 5PM, everything fell apart and it didn’t stop until around 9:30. But there was also, simply, the crying. The “I’m never happy….what will you do to keep me happy….that worked for ten minutes but now I want something new” crying. Her first day at Mom’s Day Out, she came home with a note from her caregiver: “She certainly knows her mind!” That’s an understatement.
The tantrums of her toddlerhood. The violent frustration that might show up unexpectedly, at any moment. Scrolling through “Your memories on Facebook” recently, it revealed that at age four we had a conversation: “Are you going to go upstairs now, get dressed, and get out the door at a reasonable time? Or are you going to have a screaming fit, spend all your time crying hysterically, and finally give up and get dressed?” Her response? “Yeah, let’s do that.” Sigh.
I don’t need to go on, do I? Because if you have a strong-willed child, you know. You have your own stories, probably even bigger and larger-than-life, that you’re dealing with daily. The draining, depleting kinds of stories.
Can I tell you something? A strong-willed child looks quite different at eleven.
It looks like a kid who sings in six choir performances during the Christmas season….with undiagnosed bronchitis.
It looks like a kid who is teaching herself to play the piano. Each time she turns the page to a new song, she struggles a bit, and growls a bit, and each time she sets her jaw and works until she’s got it.
It looks like a kid who plugs along, doing the things that need to be done, until she finally admits that her ear hurts a bit….and is informed by the doctor that she has a double ear-infection and a blister on one eardrum.
It looks like a kid who, in fifth grade, is wrestling with questions I only took on in high school and college. What do people mean when they say God spoke to them? What does it mean to follow Jesus with all my heart? What does “giving all my life to God” look like? (A small sampling of our conversation over my coffee this morning….)
It looks like a kid who will find a way to make things happen, instead of rolling over and playing dead when she’s told they can’t.
I remember joking, when she was tiny, that someday this stubbornness might be a good thing. I think, maybe, we may have reached that point.
So to all the parents of strong-willed little ones who are pulling their hair out with frustration and exhaustion: it gets better.
These kids of ours may very well end up doing something magnificent.