My spirited child.


Some of you may remember when Gus was an infant we did a baby group thing through a local nonprofit. Ten weeks of meetings with ten other families to talk about life changes and build some connections and comradery with other parents. It helped, we met some cool people, and I am glad we did it.

Going off of that experience we signed up for a Ones group through the same nonprofit. I had a work meeting the first session so last night was my first time – the group’s second meeting.

Y’all. My child is a lot.

Most of the interactions I have seen Gus in with other kids are one on one or “free form”, meaning they can do whatever they want. While this is kind of like that there is also some structure. There is a play room (staffed) for kids connected to the meeting room and an open door between so kids can come and go as they please. The biggest rule is that if they are eating anything they have to stay with a parent – the group meets during dinner time.

There are 6 other families in the class. One kid played in the play room the whole time (2 hrs). Three kids played in there most of the time with small, non disruptive checks ins with their parents. One kid sat quietly on mom’s lap the whole time. One kid was mainly with the parent and sometimes disruptive.

Then there was Gus. Gus ran back and forth between the two rooms all night. He wanted food and while we had some packed he had no interest in the “stay with parent to eat” rule and freaked when he could not take food with him. He climbed under tables, he tried to push over an easel, he found a stack of stuff in a corner and wedged himself in there tight to touch it all, he found a group of stuffed bears on top of a cabinet 8 feet off the ground that no one else saw and stood, pointing, yelling “bears!” for good portions of the night.Β He was non stop. He normally is but to watch him in a group of peers is alarming. He wasn’t really poorly behaved – there were a few shouting incidents (and an unfortunate kicking mishap detailed below) but for the most part he was just excitedly ready to touch everything that existed and get all the food he possibly could.

Other parents in the group talked about how their kids “get into everything” and then I watched one talking about it as her kid SAT ON HER LAP FOR TWO HOURS. Gus could not handle sitting on my lap for three songs at the end. I just looked at her wide eyed. Your kid gets into everything? Are you leaving them home alone for long periods of time unattended? At one point her kid laid on the floor and Gus yelled “BALL!” and went over and kicked him in the head repeatedly until one of us got there. Honest mistake, right?

I’ve always known Gus is a bit more than other kids and not thought much of it but yesterday I felt the eyes. I felt the parents look at my child and look at us and I felt like my kid was not normal. And it sucked. I asked about it in an online parent group and while I got a few “my kid was like that and now has ____” (which you get anytime you ask a question) I got a lot of folks who said yup, I had one like that and until you have one like that you have no idea. A lot of people realized how intense their kid was when they had a second, less intense child.

Gus is smart, on track developmentally (if not ahead), loving, sweet, and overall, a well-behaved child. He just must drink five red bulls each morning upon waking and does not stop. I know I have talked about this here before but I didn’t realize how intense he was until last night.

I learned some things to do differently next week. First, we will sit in the seats closest to the door to the play room so we can intercept him before he gets too far. We need more food. Once he got what he considered enough he calmed down a touch. The problem is he won’t sit for it. Most weeks I will pick him up from daycare and then pick Lesley up and we’ll go to class. From now on when I pick her up she’ll start giving him food when he is strapped into the seat in the back on our way there so we can get something in him before his feet hit the ground. Third, we’ll communicate more clearly about who is on Gus patrol. There is a break in the middle of the class so one of us will take prebreak and one will take postbreak. This way there is no “what should we do” discussion while Gus is on a rampage.

I bought the book “Raising a Spirited Child” this morning. Last night was a bit alarming. While I don’t feel there is a single thing wrong with him I realize my toolbox might need to be a bit bigger with this kid.


Posted on January 15, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. We are similar. Melody is soooo strong and active. I don’t know how to parent her yet either. So for now I say you aren’t alone and to hang in there!

  2. Yay, you’ve officially reached the next level of parenting! Now you can trade all those hours you spent fretting about nursing and sleeping and spend it googling whether or not your kid is normal πŸ˜‰
    In all seriousness, you know I’ve compared our kids for a long time now, and this post still rings true to what Ali was like at his age. Unsolicited advice is annoying and insulting, but here’s some anyway…making a plan of action with Lesley is key to getting through events! We always had one person on watch which means they never left her, and one person got to hang out. And know when to throw in the towel and say enough is enough, we just can’t do this thing with her. I have lots more to say, but it mostly involves stuff like perfecting your “fuck you, go to hell other parents” stare when you feel the judginess.

    • I thought a lot about Ali when coming to this realization. Yeah, I think we just need to plan much better and designate who is in charge. We spend a lot of time bickering about this and cutting that out would help tremendously.

  3. I should connect you with my best friend in Ireland. She has a 6 year old who is similar (add steroids regularly for his breathing issues :/ ). I remember a story about him when he was about 20 months old and she turned to find him gleefully in mid jump off their kitchen table. He stuck the landing…

  4. Putting myself out on a very shaky limb here. Consider eliminating red dye 40 from your child’s diet. Snacks every two hours is important. Two good tools.

    • I’m always up for limbs. πŸ™‚ I looked at a list of food containing red dye 40 and I honestly don’t think Gus has ever had any of them. 90% of what he eats at home is fruit, vegetables (normally not canned or frozen), meat, whole grains, and dairy. His snacks include organic cereals, chex, fruit, and cheese. He only drinks milk, almond milk, and water. I don’t know everything he eats at childcare brand wise but looking at the list that comes home with him I don’t think any of these foods are on it. On occasion he gets a few cheezeits or something similar but that is normally once a week. The snacking thing is a good reminder. He eats snack at daycare between 3 and 3:30 but was ready for dinner while we were trying to give him a snack sized portion of food.

  5. He may wreak a bit of havoc, but you can’t deny he has a heck of a lot more personality than the wallflower who sits quietly in his mom’s lap for 2 hours! It’s early still, but I;m fairly certain we’re going to have a “spirited” child on our hands as well. This kid doesn’t want to do anything for longer than 10 minutes. Sleep included. I know she’s young and it’s anyone’s guess, but I just have a gut feeling that she’s going to be a holy terror. In the best possible way, of course.

    • Yup, that’s how Gus was. He finally sleeps but he just runs from one thing to another nonstop. I wouldn’t trade him for any calm kid in the world πŸ™‚

    • Hey now. We have a wallflower in public, but she’s anything but at home. Little snot. (But also delightful…don’t know how they pull it off…)

      In all seriousness, though, so much respect to everyone raising spirited children. I hope the book gives you and Lesley some new tricks and strategies, or at least tools to get/keep you on the same page.

  6. Oh, I feel you. Except ours aren’t *always* on at full force. But it seems like they don’t have a middle switch, it’s all on or all off (I call it “Crazy time VS Book time”). I posted a FB video a year or two ago that is a good example of R’s constant on.

    We use food to our advantage in public situations, so I’ll share my food tip: Sandwiches!!!/tortillas/etc are awesome if you train your kid with them. No way would ours follow any “Keep food in X area” type of rule when there are fun things everywhere to explore and destroy (argh). But they’ll begrudgingly accept the fact that sandwiches/tortillas/soup/things like that are messy and moms will hold onto these things (literally). They can come over and take a bite of it while we hold it and then run away back to playing. (or back to just running, because you know, kids & all that jazz).

  7. All kids need managing of some sort in certain situations based on their personalities and it sounds like the group is one of those for Gus. I’m sure you’ll encounter other situations in which he needs to be managed much less. I’m sorry you felt stared at by the other parents. They just don’t understand the awesomeness that is Gus.

  8. Our girls are crazy compared to some of our friends’ kids. It does throw everything into doubt! You sound like awesome, aware parents xx

  9. Yeah, my son does not sit on my lap. He wants to explore, he wants to play, he wants to master physical tasks with his body. Our donor is a personal trainer so can’t say I’m surprised. I will say by doing more structured group activities geared for his age I’ve noticed in the past two weeks a bigger change in his ability to sit and participate some. They are learning and it’s good you are balancing some structure with freedom. Our guys march to their own beat, wouldn’t have it any other way.

  10. Your plan for the next class sounds great. He might calm down a bit once he is more familiar with the routine and environment. Wallace can be really reserved, or he can be getting into everything and getting wild.

  11. This. Is. Dylan.

    It’s intense.

    Solidarity my friend.

    • I keep thinking the only thing that would make it better is an older sibling to take some of his attention. Unfortunately that’s not really possible…

      • I can tell you it doesn’t always work. There are times when Carter is begging her to play with him and he wants to give her attention and she reaches that special high pitch scream and wont have anything to do with him…then we have two needy kids (one with hurt feelings).

        I like to remind myself that this behaviour, if fostered and directed, will get my kid places because nothing can stand in her way.

        Challenging and fierce!

        Unfortunately I think that a boy (totally might be wrong about this) with this behaviour will be more quickly labeled ADHD or “on-the-spectrum” by non-professionals but I really believe they might just have intense drive and curiosity which are such awesome qualities.

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