Raising a Spirited Child
Updated: Apr 4, 2018
It's difficult to describe what it's like to be the parent of a spirited child. It is an ever changing journey that evolves from day to day.
It is a roller coaster of emotion as you slide from joy to exasperation multiple times a day. It is feeling the strength of a warrior inside your soul, a deep loving, passion and purposeful drive to advocate and guard your child. A strength that keeps you going long after many would have surrendered. A strength that is resilient and kind, selfless and steady. A pride that shines light and love. Then there are days where your crippled by judgement, anxiety, exhaustion. Where grief for the idea of what you thought motherhood was going to be like explodes before your eyes. It is the pain of watching your child suffer and surrender to their own spirit. Watching shame and sadness well in their eyes.
It was apparent from very early on in my sons life that he was a little different, should I say spirited. Spirited child came from a great book I read a few years ago. I loved that it described my child in a heartfelt way instead of the normal labels given.
We were at a gathering and there were other children his age all playing calmly and I guess as some would say as was expected of them. Then there was my little frog. My handsome little man. 12 months old and more intense, sensitive, persistent, energetic, rigid and perceptive than the other children his age.
My awakening to the spirit that my son possessed came this day. One of the mothers sitting comfortably with head held high offered her advice and observation of my little frog. It went something like this......"oh man, if I had a child like that I would kill myself. I don't know how you do it!'. Said in a room full of people, I shrank away and retreated with my frog. I don't believe that this woman whom I love and respect said this in malice but to this day that was my moment of awakening where my little frog's journey started to unravel.
Each child is unique however there are very particular and distinct characteristics where more is apparent.
At the age of 3 my husband and I were called into Frog's Kindy and were told that we should visit a pediatrician and explore the prospect of Autism and ADHD. I remember in that moment, I felt a sense of calm and relief that someone else could see my child's spirit and that I wasn't just a neuritic terrible mother who could not cope or manage her child.
After almost 12 months of assessment and review by multiple specialists and therapists Frog was given the diagnosis of Aspergers. I remember that day so clearly and the mixed emotions that come with it. I also remember Frogs sparkly happy eyes because that day was a good day for him. He was calm and at ease. He was none the wiser... he was just my little Frog.
This defining moment began what I would call a journey of a thousand miles.
So imagine, Frog, my husband, my Mother (Frog's Nonna) and I all sitting in the Pediatricians room. We walked in there as a child, a husband, a Nonna and mothers. What left that room was something quite different. That day changed everything for me as a mother.
I would have to say that Frogs greatest disability is the simple fact that he appears and looks like every other little boy. It has been a lonely journey from that office to where we are today.
Because spirited children are more, it is ineffective to parent them like other children. Everything I knew and expected as a mother was turned on its head. To ignore a spirited child's tantrum is ridiculous, he can rage for hours because he heard the sound of rice bubble's crackling as I poured milk into the bowl. Put him in timeout and he tore the house apart. Stray from the routine and his world comes crashing down and your left trying to restrain him from self harming or harming others. Unable to manage daily tasks we take for granted like having a shower or wearing socks would lead to screaming and anxiety. So many hours spent feeling crazy and a terrible mother, hating myself because I couldn't gain control, what had I done wrong, was I fit to parent a child.
The fear, confusion, resentment, shame, embarrassment, exhaustion, anger and overwhelming love creates the feeling of consuming powerlessness.
I threw myself into learning and seeking out therapies and practices that would help Frog to prosper and grow. Endless hours of reading and researching. We created this little person and it was our responsibility and duty to allow him to have every opportunity to flourish in this world.
It was incredibly difficult to slowly tell our families and friends about Frogs challenges. It was even harder when many simply said "he looks normal", "I have never seen him have a meltdown", "he will grow out of it". Frustration and anxiety built in me. He was "normal" he just sees and experiences the world a little differently to most. In so many ways he was simply much more than just normal.
I have to say that Frog's journey has changed many people close to us. It has challenged us, helped us look at ourselves, brought us closer together and opened our eyes to the true gift that is a spirited child. I am so grateful for my family and their support and unwavering acceptance of Frog's quirks and spirit.
Fast forward 6 years and I can now say that this journey as a mother has completely changed my perspective of the world and the way we live. I have to say that I still get exhausted, anxious at times and I still feel overwhelming love but I have risen above the resentment, shame, embarrassment, anger and fear. Frog has gifted me the opportunity to become my best self, to learn from his struggles, to look fear in the face, to be grateful for the small things, to let go of the expected, to hope for the future.
What I now know is that despite the challenges Frog and we as a family still face each day, he is not defined by his disability or spirit. In a powerful way he has created a warrior in me, a warrior in himself and the power to empower and inspire others.
We all have greatness within us. We all have spirit in us. We all have the same opportunity to rise above the challenges and look them in the eye without fear or judgement and step into growth.
Choosing growth means to be vulnerable, to give of yourself to others, to share your journey, to take the impossible and turn it into the possible. To keep searching, to stand tall, to love unconditionally and to not be defined by the ordinary.
Allowing my frog to enrich my life because he is more, has made me more. Is my journey of motherhood like I imagined??? No its not. Not in any way I imagined but in many ways it is so much more than I could have ever hoped for.
Billy Joel wrote this saying - "and every time I held a rose it seems I only felt the thorns...."
Roses are beautiful! They are divine, they are powerful in fragrance, they are fierce in protection, they are symbolic and inspiring, they come in all types of colours and varieties, they are fragile yet strong, they grow and bloom again and again.
My spirited child is the most beautiful rose in my garden. His spirit is so vibrant it stirs my soul. Sometimes you have to get past the thorns to truly enjoy the beauty.
He is my greatest gift.
Love Kate xo
This photo was taken on the day Frog was diagnosed with Aspergers. We had brought him a new pet guiniea pig.