Strong-willed. Umm, yeah. That’s how I’ll put it. My daughter is strong-willed.
Everyone said that the toddler years would be tough. That the “terrible twos” (I hate that phrase) would absolutely drive me up a wall. But I said, “Not my sweet sugarplum!” Those eyes? That loving smile? Those sweet, delicious cheeks? Never!
Mommy: *hits pothole while driving*
MaKayla: Be careful, Mommy.
Mommy: Okay, Kay. *hits another pothole*
MaKayla: Thanks for lying, Mommy.
We’re crossing the busy street that’s in front of her school. I’ve explained the importance of getting across the street as fast as we can without running. I usually carry her across but on this particular day my back was giving me trouble. Just as we cross the yellow lines that runs down the middle of the road, my sweet child stumbles—or so I thought. I catch her before she falls and try to beat the SEPTA bus that’s barreling down the street. Her feet go out from under her again. When I look down at her, she’s laughing. She’s falling out on purpose. In the middle of the street. In the path of a bus.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can see you veteran parents smirking and nodding your heads. Standard toddler fare. The saying “and this too shall pass” is probably appropriate here. And I totally get that as a two year old she’s testing her boundaries. Discovering her voice. Demanding some degree of independence.
But is it wrong that, in the moment when she’s giving me sass and lifting her hand as though she might want to hit me (umm…no m’am), I couldn’t care less about her independence or voice?
It probably is. *shrug*
But check it, here’s the rub:
*whispering* I’ve seen adults, including myself, act just like my toddler.
Yep. They whine and cry and scream when told no. They make the same mistakes over and over again expecting a different result (side eye to ALL of Congress). They push away those who want to love and care for them in favor of the perceived adventure and all under the guise of discovery. Oh and they hate help. The worse thing in the world you can do is help them.
That last thing is me all day.
So it begs the question then: what really is the difference between my toddler and the average flawed, messed up adult?
Not much, I suppose. Except that hopefully the more years we live, the more we experience, the better choices we’ll make. Because allegedly there are some things that can only be learned by experience.
I actually used to believe this rather wholeheartedly. In my early twenties, I was the “forge your own way” chick. So what if I made the same mistakes over and over again, just in a new locale, with new friends! They were my mistakes to make, right? So what that I had a myriad of people showing me a different, more effective way to do things; to live and be successful! It was best that I see and do things for myself, right? Even to my own detriment.
Yeah, that didn’t always work out so great for me.
So now I’m of the belief that not everything has to be experienced to be learned. Experience is not always the best teacher. Other people’s experiences certainly can be.
But there’s a fine line, I suppose. If I’m honest, I secretly love how fierce and sassy and independent my baby girl is. There are many times when I have to hold in my laughter or smile when she says or does something that’s seemingly “grown” but mostly likely is just her personality minus the filter on display.
And man do I love her fearlessness. I love that she is unafraid to backflip off my quality couch onto the great unknown called my hardwood floors. But I also want her to know that she doesn’t have to actually do it in order to know that it’s not such a great idea. I want her to trust the words of those of us who love her and who tell her that she could hurt herself or, in the case of falling out in the street, die. And yes, I tell a two year old that she could die if she’s hit by a car because umm, well she could.
Being strong-willed without wisdom can be deadly—especially today. So help a sista out all of you Mommies and Daddies of young children! How do you teach your child boundaries and respect while not quenching their adventurous and independent spirits?
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.