I do not fantasize about having an Easy Kid, because I believe God has given me the perfect kids for me, but I surely know that Easy Kids exist. I’ve seen them. Easy Kids can make it through a birthday party, someone else’s or their own, without curling up in the fetal position weeping or yelling about the injustice of piñatas or relay races. And I don’t mean when they are 3. Think older, much older.
Easy kids join sports teams for the love of the game. They joke with their fellow players, want to go to practice, and are coachable. They don’t consider every practice to be a personal assault on their coveted private time. They don’t blame the sun, the wind, the coach, their teammates, or cruel, cruel fate whenever they miss a play. They shake things off; they move on. They don’t act surprised-- nay shocked and outraged—when it’s time to go to church on Sunday, even though they have gone every single week for their entire lives.
Easy Kids pick up social cues and care more about fitting in than always being right, justified, or morally superior. This makes Easy Kids pleasant to be around.
I know I usually have the right responses to the not so easy child in my midst. I am sensitive to this child who “feels things deeply,” as I like to put it. I know about adequate rest, over-stimulation, introversion, extroversion, God-given temperament, and special needs.
I understand that my child has strengths and weaknesses, and I try to be accepting. Goodness knows I have my own, probably more weaknesses than strengths. It’s just that as a people pleaser, it’s hard for me to relate to someone who isn’t out to please. I would have died if I knew I irritated my teachers with fidgety, erratic, or goofy behavior, but a not so easy kid doesn’t seem to care.
Sometimes it gets old being the mom of the adorable kid who doesn’t always act adorable. Sometimes I feel fed up. I want to say just ride the damn rollercoaster, eat the damn chicken, hit the damn piñata, and play on the damn team. See the bright side, run errands, give a wedgie, pig out, suck it up.
Sometimes my child does all of these things and it is a relief and a surprise, and I feel guilty being surprised, as I let out a big breath and life seems easy for a moment.
It’s not just about being labeled the mom with the basket-case kid, although at times it has been hard to admit that things aren’t perfect over here. Things aren't black and white. They are gray.
It’s more that as the mom of the not so easy kid, I see all of this kid’s wonderful parts, and I want the rest of the world to have a chance to see them too: the smarts beyond smart, the playful sense of humor, the complete honesty, the consideration for other’s feelings, the facility with language, the incredible generosity, the snuggles, the kind heart.
I know that although my growing up years were pretty darn easy, they didn’t seem so at the time. I spent several years feeling left out and miserable, while on the surface I looked like I had it made. Looking back at my report cards, I had stellar grades, with lower marks in self control. I cried easily and loudly. I wanted life to be fair. I preferred the company of adults to children. I dug in my heels.
Hmmm. One could just say it’s the apple not falling far from the tree, but what for me amounted to a few miserable years, primarily around puberty, for this one, for this little one, life seems so much more difficult.
For this one, for whom life seems to be challenge after challenge, quirk after quirk, will the road be that much rougher than it was for me? For I was an extrovert, and generally a pleaser, and those things helped bit by bit, year by year.
I wonder, what can I be doing differently to make the journey easier for my child? My friends who have kids with diagnosed disorders know which social worker, therapist and OT to call, or which medication to use. I feel torn between intervening and accepting or embracing. How much do I try to “fix” and how much do I just let be? My parents didn't try to fix me. They sighed, gave me a wry smile, and let me spin myself into a tizzy, time and time again.
How much is just personality and how much is my being too kind, too sympathetic, too tolerant of certain behaviors?
How can I affirm who my child is, and how my child has been since birth, while also helping to navigate this fickle world, a world I know to be harsh? What do I do to help my child blossom later while not affixing labels today that could be really hard to peel off?
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."—Ps 139:14