She’s a handful, this kid of mine. But I love her with all of my heart. Kate Riley is her name, wearing me out is her game.
I think I knew she would be a handful even in utero. She would punch, wiggle, and kick. Hard. I can still feel the phantom pain of it up in my right side. She wasn’t about to reveal to us whether she was a boy or a girl during the 20-week ultrasound, turning somersaults and sucking her thumb instead (she still bites her nails and loves to tumble…some things never change). I remember feeling so disappointed when the ultrasound was “inconclusive,” feeling angry and annoyed because gosh-darn-it, I wanted to decorate a nursery and I didn’t want to go lame-o neutral (no offense, if that’s your style. I now know better). I remember, my dad telling me after that ultrasound, “Well, that’s your first lesson as a parent: no matter what, you can’t control these little ones.”
Can you see that grimace over my face now? Do you hear my eyes roll? Yep, that was my reaction when dad told me that many moons ago. Of course, he’s right. But at the time–half-way through my first preganancy–I wanted to believe that I could control learning the sex of my unborn baby. Afterall, she was occupying my uterus, didn’t I have some sort of “right” to know if I wanted to?
Sigh…so Kate was a “surpise…it’s a girl!” and I was thrilled beyond belief. I had always wanted a girl (what mom doesn’t?) I held her for the first time feeling like I had “known” her for ever. “Oh, my beautiful baby girl,” I cooed. That first night in the hospital the noc R.N. brought her to me and said, “This one…she’s gonna be a lot to handle. She loves to move, even as a newborn. Daddy’s going to have to do a lot of pacing with her.” Hummmm?? I just took her in my arms and admired her bow-shaped lips and thought, “What does she know?”
Well, my friends, turns out she was right.
Here’s the thing: Noc R.N. Jennifer was referring to what we know as temperament. In the 1950’s, Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas (prof of psychiatry at NYU Medical Center) were the first to describe temperament. Their major focus was in the psychology, anthropoly, phsysiology, and neurobiology and how all of these aspects come together to shape our overall temperament. They came up with a little formula that they believed shaped temperament.
Typical energy level + Speed at which one adjusts to new situations + intensity of emotions + sensitivity to sights/sounds/smells (S^3) + Feelings + personal tastes (relationships w/ others) = TEMPERAMENT.
(that is just my take on how they determined temperament, it’s not a legitimate formula)
The thing is, we don’t get to choose our temperaments. We just have to live with what we’ve got. And what others have. As a parent who loves her redheaded sprite more than anything, I need to learn that I just need to alter my response to her temperament. I know she is not being deliberately uncooroperative or trying to frustrate me. I know it’s all about her innate temperament.
Knowing this is great and all, but there are days I get no comfort from a kid who bounces higher than I ever dreamed possible.
If you are struggling with a “spirited child,” I urge you to check out this book: