My sweet, dimpled, darling, strong-willed child,
How many nights have I fallen into bed, exhausted from the day’s battles? How many nights have I lain awake at 3 am, worrying about you and that temper, that fiery temper? How many times have I had to put myself in time out, lest I wring your downy neck in frustration?
Your will is made of iron, and you showed us that from day one. Out you came, heedless of the date the doctor set for your arrival, setting your own schedule and path from your birth day onward. Not much has changed, my son. You still keep us on our toes, trying to control every outcome.
Your toddler years, oh man, I thought I wouldn’t survive. No was the operative word from you. Your bedtime routines were less than dreamy. More often that not, you went to bed in tears. And so did I.
The tantrums were epic; parking lots, grocery stores, the backseat, in the movie theatre. You threw tantrums because we had to leave. Because we had to arrive. Because I wouldn’t let you drown yourself. Because you had to wear shoes. Because I wouldn’t let you wear shoes. Because the sky was blue.
You have always been eager to assert your authority on the universe.
Back then, as I do now, I would creep into your room after your were asleep for that last sniff and embrace. A sleeping child is a beautiful thing, and a sleeping strong-willed child, even more so.
Your sleep was my solace. It was a sign that I had, at least for that day, succeeded; in keeping you alive and in keeping myself sane. A win, and on many days, my only win.
As if you knew your mama was at her wits’ end, you would often turn to me on the hardest nights, the nights when I felt most like a failure as your mom, and wrap your arms around my neck. I’d hear in a sleepy whisper, “I sorry Mama. I sorry I scream at you.”
A kiss on the forehead with your curls still damp and we’d hold each other close. Despite our differences from just an hour before, we sat in the dark receiving from each other the comfort of a warm body and unconditional love. The anger was forgotten, and once again, everything was right in the world.
At least for the next five minutes.
You, my strong-willed child, are a force to be reckoned with. One day, I hope you will use these powers for good.
As your mom, it is my job to provide the universe not with a dictator, but with an advocate. It is my job to bend that iron-clad will into something that does good in the world. I didn’t sign up for motherhood to raise an evil dictator (although there were times shortly after your third birthday I was pretty certain…never mind). I signed up to raise a man of honor and integrity, compassion and education, who would see the good and fight the bad. A man who would stand up for others, and stand up for himself.
I thought the toddler years were tough. The teen years now are peeking around the corner, waving at me. I see how little time we have left.
The years I have left to raise you are now less than the years we’ve had together. I am more than halfway done with my task.
How many times have I heard someone say: “Oh, (fill in the blank) that’s such an easy age!” As in, “Oh, Kindergarten, that’s such an easy age!” or, “Oh, eight years old, that’s such an easy age!”
I don’t think you got that memo. I have come to realize, there is no easy age. All the ages of child rearing are fraught with danger and drama. I am never going to know what it is like to have an easy-going child. If I keep waiting for the “easy age” to come along, I’m gonna be dead.
This parenting gig, it’s not easy. And for those parenting a strong-willed child, even less so.
Do I wish you were more compliant, easy-going, and chill? Yes, sometimes. But only for an instant- because if you were any of those things, you would not be you.
And you, you are the one that I created, and the one my heart beats for on the hard days and on the blissful days (when they happen, albeit rare).
I wouldn’t choose to be anyone else’s mom but yours.
If I succeed, if I can give you only one thing as you head out
to take over the into the world, know this: you are unconditionally loved. I will always, always love you. I believe in you, and I believe you are capable of great, powerful, and amazing things. Things that only someone as stubborn, hard-headed determined, and resolute as you are can accomplish.
Being the mother of a strong-willed child is not a task for the faint of heart. It is a privilege.
There was a time, when you were two, that I wanted to share that privilege with others, but I digress…
With a deep, resolute breath of my own, I march on. We haven’t much time left, but I’ve got this.