I will never forget the look on my second daughter’s face the moment she was born – it was one of awe, wonder and a bit of shock. Initially quiet, she seemed to be taking us all in, sort of gauging how much of her could we really handle. Surprisingly, it did not take her long to start bawling. Huge gulping cries no one could figure out. Is she hungry? No. Is she wet? No. Is she cold, is she hot, is she uncomfortable, are her clothes tight – WHAT ON EARTH IS THE PROBLEM?
Through all our questions, our desperate attempts, she kept crying. She cried in the rooms we paced her in, the car rides we took her on, in the baby carrier, the stroller, the bed, and the crib. She just cried and cried. Hence, none of us were very surprised when she grew up to be a highly sensitive toddler who could scream her displeasure at the top of her lungs, shrieking bloody murder because the yellow balloon she had placed on the table was no longer there.
Normally I’m all for raising powerful and opinionated girls in this world. I admire strong women that can use their voices openly and directly. But parenting these types of personalities can be taxing. It’s draining to have your angelic looking daughter wake up annoyed at everyone around her, to suddenly get upset because she didn’t like the spoon you handed her, or because she doesn’t feel like wearing shoes to the park today.
After one particular tedious day, I confided to my husband that I couldn’t wait for these toddler years to be over. I wanted her to be 5, an age where I could hopefully, possibly, reach her rationally and we would settle disagreements amiably, with a little sensible persuasion. He felt sad at my admission and tried to make me take it back. I didn’t.
In retrospect, I know that was the exhaustion talking. I recognize that her enthusiasm equal her tantrums in strength; she is able to love as fiercely and devotedly as she is able to kick down and complain. I see it in her loyalty to her big sister, who she follows around all day, her curiosity with creepy crawly things, shells, leaves, and dogs, and her excited cheers for the coming rain, the ocean, and any lizards she happens to catch.
I also must admit that she wasn’t born to the calmest, meekest parents ever. Her father and I love, argue, and live as passionately and loudly as she does. When we are upset you can be sure one of us will scream, cry and throw a fit in two seconds flat. We are quite proud of that actually. There is no such thing as bottled feelings in our household.
How could I ever expect that she wouldn’t, or doesn’t have the right to do the same? In all likelihood she will grow up to be a force to be reckoned with. More power to her.
And I've made a promise for the next time she throws a fit: though it might burn my ears, though it might be hard to control, I will let her know that I understand; she has the right to be heard, and her mother, her father, her sister, our duty is to listen.