He turned out to be a hard baby, he had reflux and ear infections. He was hard to soothe and didn't sleep well. He wore me out day after day. I was so grateful that we were blessed with him and yet I felt guilty for struggling to find joy with him.
The struggle extended into toddler and preschool years. He was totally different from my other two children. They were much calmer and more compliant. He was wild and destructive and so smart and demanded my full attention. He was 2 when my daughter was born and I have story after story of the destruction he caused while I was feeding or changing the baby. Once when he was 4, I was putting my daughter down for a nap and he and his friend climbed the fence in my backyard to the neighborhood park which we backed up to and took off, it took me several minutes to find them.
I was having a hard time finding the joy in the journey of parenting this child that some days I honestly had a hard time liking. I loved him to pieces and his adorable face, dimples, smile and amazing eyes softened my heart daily (God knows what he's doing).
I was praying and pleading daily to have help and patience. I had a degree in early childhood Ed for heaven sake, I knew how to teach and discipline right? Turns out I didn't have any answers for this passionate, intense child. I was humbled and needed help from above. (God knows what he's doing).
Many times God answers our prayers through others. Five or 6 years ago I went to a church meeting that was just for the women in our area. It was a good meeting and I was enjoying the music and speakers. Our stake president, (leader over several congregations) President Shields got up and started to speak to us. He said he felt prompted to put away his prepared talk and speak from his heart and what God was telling him to say. He started talking about one of his sons. He talked about how this son challenged him and was wild and crazy. He talked about how the household was calmer and less contentious when this child was away from home. This boy was difficult for him and he struggled to find joy in him. At this point I was crying the ugly cry in the meeting because I knew exactly who he was speaking to...it was me!
He then went on to tell about an accident that his son experienced at age 5. They didn't know if their son would make it, he was in ICU for an extended stay. It was during this hospital stay and sitting next to this son's bedside that President Shields saw his son for who he really was. He saw his character and his potential and his heart was changed. Then he said this, "If you have a child like this who you struggle with, know this...these are the kids who are going to change the world. These are the kids who have the charisma, the determination and the will power to change this world for the better."
Honestly that one quote changed my life. I knew exactly why he was supposed to put away his prepared talk and speak from his heart. God was answering my prayers and pleadings. This talk didn't change my son....it changed me. It changed my whole outlook on his personality. Now that doesn't mean things have been easy or are a walk in the park for us. It's still hard to parent a very intense, passionate, tender hearted perfectionist. But I can see who he is becoming, I can see that his passion and drive and hard working attitide will take him far in life, my job isn't to change him or break that spirit, it's to channel all of that in the right direction. He's extremely different from me and so many times i don't know what I'm doing but my prayers and pleadings for this child (and my other children of course) are constant, God hasn't failed me yet. I make mistakes and yell and get frustrated way more than I like. But I also love and snuggle and talk and compliment way more than I yell. My relationship with this son is really good. We laugh and joke and talk about his passion and enthusiasm and energy in positive ways. We talk about how to channel his anger when things don't go his way. We are working on having conversations and not just asking questions (the average child asks 144 a day...I'll bet my son asks 500 a day...no joke).
Now it a joy to parent him, even though it isn't easy. But it has taken much work on my part to get there. One of the best things I did was to write down all of his character qualities. I wrote those that drove me crazy and turned them into something positive. Loud and obnoxious became enthusiastic and expressing himself, wild became energetic and passionate. It was another perspective shift. (By the way, I got the idea of the character list from the book "Raising your spirited child" by Mary Kurcinka...a really great book!)
I know I'm not the only one out there who has struggled like this. If you are struggling know you are not alone. Part of the reason that talk by President Shields was so powerful is because I didn't feel alone anymore and my guilt was taken away for struggling.
Here is one of my all time favorite quotes by Lynn Robbins, a leader in the LDS church:
"A sweet and obedient child will enroll a father or mother only in Parenting 101. If you are blessed with a child who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in Parenting 505. Rather than wonder what you might have done wrong in the premortal life to be so deserving, you might consider the more challenging child a blessing and opportunity to become more godlike yourself. With which child will your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed, and refined? Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?"
I am grateful for this boy. I am grateful for the Mother I have become because of him. God has whispered to me on more than one occasion that he is exactly how he is supposed to be. I needed him to become a better, more patient and loving person myself. I'm forever grateful to God for sending him to me.