There Is No Shame In A Difficult Baby (Or Child)

Have I mentioned that I have a two year old?  'Tis true.  And she is one HECK of a two year old.  In fact, she has always been an intense child.  As a baby she awoke every hour or two.  (I realize this is normal.)  But she always woke screaming.  I would nurse her back to sleep or do whatever worked but there were never tender nighttime moments with air sucking or fist finding as my sweet one gently showed the signs of hunger.  No, she is designed like a fine race car: zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds. 

The intensity of babyhood has followed her into toddler-hood and she is a delightful, charming, lovely and insane, screaming, balls to the wall, child.  She switches from one to the other at a moments notice. 

Here is the funny thing though- when I mention some of her more distinctive "traits" people are quick to find an excuse for her.

"Maybe she has a gluten intolerance."
"Could be she has colic."
"Try taking out the dairy."
"Get her adjusted."
"Cranial therapy works wonders."
"Have you tried wearing her?"
 My mom even said once that, "She is only unhappy when she doesn't get enough sleep," to which my mother- in-law (who LIVES with us and said child) responded, "She must be tired ALL THE TIME."

You know what I think though?  I don't think there is anything WRONG with this girl.  I don't think she can or needs to be "fixed" with an adjustment or a diet change or magical technique.  I think she is just kind of....hard.

And, I am not afraid to admit it.

I could make up excuses for my child.  I could blame it on something that is beyond our control.  Or I could try to control the situation in every way possible. I think that I could successfully drive myself batty doing so.  I could also just admit the simple yet difficult truth of the matter:  some babies, children and human beings are harder.  Or more intense.  Or more sensitive.  Or if you are lucky, they are all three.  

But it seems to me that sometimes nobody wants to do this.  We would much rather find an excuse, a reason, an explanation.  I think it takes some of the blame off of the kid, and it makes us feel like we have a little more control over our lives than we actually do.  If we can just figure out the cause, then we could fix them!!!!

The other thing that I hate to think about is how I and the way I parent contributes to the trouble I sometimes have with this sweet child.  

After a hard day yesterday I was talking to my husband at dinner.  I was telling him that she was difficult.  There was hitting and kicking and even spitting in addition to the usual yelling of orders and general mayhem and screams.  (To be clear, it was the two year old yelling orders and creating mayhem, not me.  Well, mostly.)

"Doesn't she ever do that to you?"  I innocently ask. 

"Never," says my silver-back of a husband.  "I would not put up with that."

Stunned silence. 

But I am a good mom.  Right....?  She doesn't just do this with me, right? 

I hope I AM a good mom.  But the ugly truth is that I am not a perfect mom.  I am not always consistent.  I don't always demand respect.  I let things slide when I should be firm.  And, as the hubby pointed out, he doesn't put up with some of the behavior that I ignore. 

Again, it would be much more pleasant to blame some ethereal factor on the hitting, spitting, kicking and what not.  The truth of the matter though is that some of it probably happens because of me.  A more difficult child demands a better parent.  A more consistent one.  A loving one.  A balanced, firm, and kind parent who sets boundaries and makes sure they are not crossed. 

Sometimes I can get away with some sloppier "mom" work with my other kids- but not with this one. 

So when I say that this baby/child doesn't have anything "wrong" with her other than the strong personality she was born with, I don't mean it as an insult.  I love her more than I can put into words.  Sometimes I think that my intensity of affection for her is a result of the way she pushes me to my limit. 

I am not ashamed of my difficult child.  But I will also not pass the buck or find an excuse for the way she is.  I am grateful for her and I am grateful for the lessons she has brought with her. 

She has humbled me as a parent.  I really thought I had figured things out before she was born.  I knew how to handle a baby and I knew how to keep a toddler from being crazy. 

I was wrong. 

She shows me my flaws.  She demands that I be better and stronger.  She teaches me patience and joy all at the same time. 

Then again, I am pretty sure she inherited her personality from her father's side of the family.  So this is all really his fault.  That makes me feel better.


ErgoSpazmo said…
Wonderful! I have a difficult toddler too, She was pretty good until we brought home her baby sister, the last 8 weeks have been hell. We have had tantrum after tantrum, she cries over everything and is crying every day, she hit spits yells screams and whinges all day but I still love her to bits and she has her good hr's during a day sometimes. Our 8 week old is a little difficult too, she will sleep 7-10 hrs at night but screams and crys all day.
Misty Pratt said…
If I didn't know better, I'd say I wrote this blog post!! You speak to exactly how I feel most days, but you are probably coming from a place of WAY more experience :) (she's your 4th right?) My crazy toddler is my first child, so we are all the more clueless!! The idea of "no shame" is something I need to practice more of...
Mama Birth said…
Shucks! She is actually my third. My fourth is, thank goodness, pretty stinking easy!!!
Katelyn said…
haha I love that you used this photo. Leena definitely has a strong personality. :D
Jo said…
i've got of those. and he is my first.
luckily, his sister is proving much "easier".
what a good post- i completely relate and agree and only blame my parenting skills 9/10 of the time :/
ACDC2005 said…
Funny I only have one and she is very, very spirited. Struggled to even have a baby and we got the triad of awesomeness you described above, haha. I'm really in for it.
Oh - this is our daughter - she started screaming at 2 days old and would go NON STOP for 12.5 hours/day. She was diagnosed with "colic", and "silent reflux" and she has evolved (now just over 2) docs talk about "giftedness" and "ADHD" when I describe some of her characteristics to them...she is who she is, and only time will tell. I've had to put her in daycare a few days a week to get some relief and she's happy as happy can be in the social, busy environment but at home, she screams. Some babes are just wired differently, our first was a breeze. I always say "the uiverse has to balance itself, and it sure did with our kids - complete opposites!" Thanks for your post, will certainly take a few things away from it!
Unknown said…
I think it's just human nature to try and find a reason behind every thing, rather than simply believe that some things, some people, just are the way they are!
WoozleMom said…
I don't have personal experience with this -- yet. Our first (a boy) is a pretty laid-back kid, most of the time. We fully expected our second to be more like what you're describing, but she is, if anything, even more chill. Who knows what our third will be like! I'm guessing more difficult.

I have a niece, though, that is very much like your daughter. She is six years old now, and is much less intense than she used to be, though she is still much much much more intense than the average child. In her case, though, it turns out that there was something "wrong" that was impacting her behavior: she has a LOT of allergies. When they put her on shots (age 3 or 4), her behavior improved dramatically, though her intense personality didn't change! So in her case it seems to have been a contributing factor. I don't think that's the case in all situations, though.
Anonymous said…
Your sentence about her hitting/kicking/spitting at you, and not at your husband is the common around here. We too have a hard child, and i'm okay with that because she cries hard, and tantrums hard, and yells hard and scream hard.. But more importantly, she plays hard, and loves hard, and cuddles hard, and laughs hard and if that is the trade, i'm okay with it.

My husband doesn't get bit, or kicked, or hit, or any of that, but i know i'm sweeter on her and i take more from her. But, I am okay with that. I have a hard baby, and to get the good hards, you must deal with the bad hards... (this was one of the hardest things to word with using the word "hard" so many times.....)
Mellanie said…
Hmmm...I have mixed feelings about this one. My middle child had a very difficult toddlerhood (and pre-school years). VERY difficult. When we figured out her food allergies and eliminated the major allergens from her diet, her personality totally changed. I'm not making excuses for her behavior, but there is no doubt that allergies and other issues (like sensory processing disorder) can have a major impact on behavior. Looking back, I really, really wish I had known what was going on with her at a much younger age. She must have been miserable and it was only as she got older that she was able to verbalize it. My third child has many, many behavior issues due to her genetic condition (she has Kabuki Syndrome) but that is a whole other story. :-)

I'm not saying that your daughter has sensory issues or allergies or whatever. You are her mom and know her best. However, I would hate for other parents to feel like they are not accepting their child for who they are or that they are making excuses for their child if they search for answers for difficult behavior that seems outside the realm of "normal."

P.S. - My middle child STILL challenges me, but in a different way. She has a very complex personality and I would not ever want to change that about her.
Mama Birth said…
True story Mellanie- I wondered what you would think of this when I wrote it! Now I know! I know that sometimes there is a reason. I feel that for mine it is just personality, not anything else. I guess sometimes I do see women who are driving themselves nuts trying to find a specialist to fix their kid or find a diagnosis when to me, on the outside, the kid seems just....hard! But normal, just hard. I guess my point was, some babies are harder and sometimes it really is just personality, not anything fixable. And I think sometimes we are ashamed or afraid to admit that, hey, my child isn't easy going and agreeable. But sometimes that is the truth. I think mothers who are in tune though just "know" what it is- Thank you for weighing in.
Staci Bishop said…
I absolutely LOVE this post! My daughter, now 5, was a difficult baby and toddler. She was a nonsleeper so much so that I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown from my own lack of sleep. When I finally stopped trying to "fix" her and realized that she simply didn't need as much sleep as the average child (still dosen't) it was very liberating.

Same thing as far as her behavior. Once I stopped feeling guilty over HER choices I felt better. Ok, less guilty. As a mom, I don't think mommy guilt ever goes away :) but I finally had to accept that she has a brain and free will to make a choice just like I do.

Even now, we have made some dietary changes in the last year but it hasn't changed her core personality traits. Some behaviors are better, yes, but she's still the same girl that I have grown to love. In fact, I often tell her that certain personality traits that I fuss over now, may indeed serve her well later in life. I feel that my job is just to help her focus them in a positive manner.

I truly believe that one day I will miss all of this. Even the bad days. Might as well try to find the joy in every moment now.
Unknown said…
Our fourth is like this. My wife often says that if he had been our first he would have been our last. I came out loud and has been loud ever since among many of the other traits you mentioned. (we did end up having one more after him and she has been pretty easy so far but I think her big brother is rubbing off on her) ;) Thanks for sharing again Sarah! It reminds us all that we are not alone in this wonderful journey called parenthood.
Bec Touzel said…
Oh thank heavens! My 2yr old is just like this and I used to think the same thing "oh she's tired" "she's just peopled out today" (we live at a outdoor rec kids camp so this happens a lot) but the truth of the matter is, Abigail is just a very very spirited little girl!
I will stop trying to make excuses for her, set limits and stick to them, and loveloveLOVE her! She was our first and hardly slept during the day (nights were much better)and is constantly on the go. Our 2nd, Jemimah, is much more placid - i sometimes forget I have two! lol