I’ve learned a valuable lesson over the course of the last week.
You see, I had to face a new challenge as a mother and at first, I didn’t handle it very well. I panicked and in a way, I let my son down, despite him being too young to understand this.
I’m glad that I realized my mistake fast enough but I will always remember that I didn’t do as well as I should have.
A ‘Problem child’
My 18 months old son is a high energy little boy. He is constantly on a go and there’s no way of stopping him. He would never just sit still and play with a toy. He enjoys books and drawing, but these activities won’t keep him calm and still for long. Most of the time he is an unstoppable force of madness, craziness, and destruction fused with the most adorable and sweet personality.
I have never thought of my son and his high energy level as a negative thing. I’ve always seen it as a natural way for him to express himself and every day I’ve done my best to keep him occupied and help him burn his energy in a fun and healthy way.
It has become perfectly normal for me not to sit down or catch a break during my day; or work from my laptop whilst standing up, catching my son from flying off the sofa. It has always amazed me, how my boy could play with toys, draw on all possible surfaces, watch kids show, dance, eat and empty yet another cabinet he found a way to open, turning kitchen pots and pans into a musical orchestra, all at the same time and I mean at the same time!
We regularly visit playgrounds and playgroups, go for walks and have play dates with other mommies and babies. There has never been an issue regarding my boy’s ways of playing or his approach to other children. He’s always been very friendly and happy to play and share boy.
However, my mind was invaded with doubts and concerns after a play day with a couple of new mums I’ve recently met and their kids.
We’ve invited them to our home as I thought it would be great for kids to play and for us mums to chat.
It started well, but very soon my son’s overly excited behaviour started to cause some of the mums to react in a rather defensive way. I tried my best to explain that my boy was just high energy and loved to run around and play active games. If he’s happened to accidentally catch their kid it’d be not because he’s been naughty or means; plus sometimes boys play a bit rougher than girls.
I realised just how quickly my boy could go from a zero to a hundred in terms of energy and excitement and how quickly a peaceful play could turn into a bit too many pushes and nudges. At one point I found myself hovering over my child like a hawk, an attempt to stop him from accidentally knocking one of the kids off their feet. Next, to other kids of the same age as my son, my boy looked like an out of control little menace.
Eventually one of the parents said that my son was too much and sympathised that I had to deal with him daily.
I didn’t need that sympathy, as I’ve never seen my son’s behaviour as a problem. I’ve always thought that he was naturally energetic and yes had moments of getting carried away, but he’s only one and a half, he’s still learning. However, after that play day, I started to doubt myself. In addition, a ‘problem child’ comment I happened to overhear didn’t help.
Doubt and Confusion
After that play day, I found myself second guessing everything I’ve done for the past 18 months. I kept asking myself where did I go wrong. Because at that point I was scared that I have somehow allowed my boy to play rough and too high energy and perhaps it may have led to difficulties for him to play with other kids and make friends.
I spent the entire week thinking about fixing this ‘issue’. I kept watching my son play and kept pulling him back each time he’d get too excited and told him off each time he’d play rough.
Then, over the weekend we had a birthday party to attend. I knew there would be a lot of children there and boy I dreaded that. I was so anxious and worried that my boy would be too much for the party and would get carried away or do something that would cause a concern amongst other parents, again…
I don’t remember the last time I felt this anxious.
How wrong I was! This was the best birthday party! Partially because the party truly was a blast but it was also special because I got to see my son happily playing together with other high energy children! He was the youngest of them all and yet he was involved in all plays and games and held his own with confidence! I’ve never felt more proud!
My child has never been a ‘problem child’, he’s the most adventurous and curious little boy! He just needed the right environment.
The right kind of advice
There were a number of high energy kids, running around and playing, with so much joy and happiness that I couldn’t stop smiling just watching them! None of those kids was nasty, mean or aggressive or ‘problem’! Yes, they played rough at times, particularly boys, yes they pushed each other a little, there were a couple of nudges, but nothing that would cross the line of what’s acceptable at playing, no aggression or violence. They played all together, chased each other and played with play dough (in our case ate some).
I’ve had a great chat with the parents of high energy kids and we’ve shared some common challenges as well as laughter. I was surprised to learn just how many of those parents, just like me, have experienced ‘judgment’ or a ‘problem kid’ comment, whilst there’s absolutely nothing wrong with our kids. Some kids are calmer and a bit more mellow, others are constant energizers, neither is good or bad, right or wrong, that’s simply the way they naturally are.
However, there’s something very important that I as a parent have failed to realize until that birthday party. For a brief moment, I started to see my son’s high energy as a problem, not realizing that perhaps the energy of the other kids during the play day was too low for him. My son wanted to play chase and run around whilst other kids wanted to sit down and play with a toy. There’s nothing wrong with either of these wants but I should not expect my son to change his nature to fit into somebody’s ‘right’ behaviour bracket, as I wouldn’t expect it from some else’s child.
Although only for that brief moment, I felt like I’ve I failed my son, as I allowed the environment and let’s be fair some judgemental people make me think that there was a problem with him. However, I now feel so much stronger and a lot more confident in myself and my son! I feel like this learning curve has proved that despite my moment of doubt, in fact, I have been doing the best job I could for my son and I have been the best mum I could for my high energy monster.
Prior to all this, I’ve already been filling our days with exciting adventures, even if it revolved around housework. I shaped our world to be the happy and healthy place for my son and all of his ridiculous energy! I’ve done it without over thinking or doubting myself, I’ve done it because that made my son happy. It is because of everything I’ve done and continue to do for my boy, he’s been growing, learning and developing in a joyful manner.
Children are all unique and beautiful
With time our children just like us, learn to adapt and adjust their levels of energy and behaviour according to the surroundings and the environment, but at such young age, they don’t know how to turn down their excitement!
Children don’t filter their emotions, they are raw and honest about what they feel! Happy means HAPPY! Excited means EXCITED! And why not?! This is how it should be!
I’ve learned an important lesson. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and see a bigger picture. If something isn’t like it is everywhere else, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it, it simply means it’s different! And different is good!
Of course, I will continue to teach my boy to play with an awareness of his strength. I will continue to teach him to share and to make friends, as well as teach him to appreciate all of his friends regardless of their energy levels. I will show him how to have fun in a peaceful and calm way as well as in a crazy way. I will teach him to be the best boy he can be by embracing and appreciating his individuality.
Next time someone tells you they sympathize with you because your child is different from theirs, tell them to keep their sympathy together with their narrow-mind.
There are as many personalities as there are children! They are all unique and no two are the same and that’s the beauty about it! As our children grow into the most unique and individual selves!