I’ve mentioned before how my children are so different. Complete opposites in a lot of respects. Graham can chow down on some food. Maddie eats like a bird. Graham isn’t affectionate at all. Maddie would crawl back inside of me if she could. Graham loves building things. Maddie loves active play. Graham loves super heros. Maddie loves princesses.
They’re also so different when it comes to discipline. Graham has so many wonderful traits, and he’s truly an amazing kid. But he is also the most stubborn, manipulative, and argumentative kid I’ve ever met! Needless to say, we’ve tried any and all discipline tactics with him and have finally settled on a few that work…most of the time. I am mentally exhausted every day trying to get him to do what he needs to do. Maddie is a people-pleaser, and already very empathetic. It doesn’t take much to get her to obey.
Lately, I’ve been feeling “the mommy guilt” about enrolling the kids in some extra curricular activities. In my opinion, my kids are still so little that I haven’t really wanted to sign them up for much, if anything. Weekends are special to us – Dada is home, we can explore, go on family adventures, or just relax. So I haven’t wanted to enroll the kids in soccer or dance or anything like that on the weekend. And as for week days, with Maddie still taking naps in the afternoon and Graham at school in the morning, it just wasn’t practical to sign them up for anything during the week.
But Maddie has (for the most part) stopped napping. So I felt like maybe it was time to do some extra activities. I signed Maddie, my active child, up for gymnastics. And for Graham, my super-hero-loving child, I thought martial arts would be right up his alley. Last week was their first week of class.
Here’s how it went down –
Maddie walks into gymnastics, is a little shy at first, but then joins right in! She follows directions and does exactly what the teachers ask of her. It was completely adorable and I was so, so proud.
And Graham? Well…let’s just say I’m glad the martial arts center offered a free trial class. Because he is not ready.
The Sensei was a strict, super direct, older man. He was conducting a private lesson when we walked in, and as I watched, my heart sank. I just knew Graham wasn’t going to mesh well with this type of personality.
Sure enough, the Sensei couldn’t even get Graham to come over and sit in the same area as the other children…
It wasn’t a proud parenting moment. That’s for sure. I could tell the Sensei was annoyed and he gave up with Graham almost immediately. I tried my best to get Graham to participate, but he’d made up his mind. He wasn’t going to budge.
I told Graham it was fine if he didn’t want to participate, and we could just watch the other kids. But we ended up leaving about 5 minutes later. I knew it wasn’t going to happen and didn’t feel like sitting there any longer.
Graham is so difficult to me. He’s like a puzzle. Every time he pushes back and tests me, I feel challenged. It’s exhausting dealing with him. I go back and forth – does he need me to be more authoritative, more strict? Or does he need more compassion, more patience, and more choices? I love him with all my heart, but I can’t figure him out.
Then there are the days when he flat out tells me no when I tell him to do something. That infuriates me. It takes half my energy not to yell, and the other half to think about what I’m going to say or do in the next few moments to remind him that I’m the boss. We’re talking about simple things that he refuses to do – like putting on his shoes so we can go somewhere. Or putting his plate in the sink.
I know how a child like him would’ve been handled years ago. He would’ve gotten a belt or a smack across the face. But (obviously) I don’t think that’s best, and I don’t want that for my children.
And Maddie isn’t perfect. She has her moments. But in general, she is the saving grace for my confidence as a mom. Graham makes me feel like a failure every single day. The arguments, the flat out disobedience – I feel like a terrible mother that can’t control her child. But because Maddie is so different, it helps me to realize that I’m not the crappy mom I think I am on my bad days. Graham is just a more difficult child. I think most moms would struggle with his behavior. Maddie (for now) is a more laid-back child. It’s just a difference in personality and temperament.
And really, I’m glad my children are so different. I probably wouldn’t be here today if I had TWO children as difficult as Graham! But on the other hand, if I had two children as easy-going as Maddie, I might not have as much understanding and empathy for other moms, and what they’re going through. (I would probably still be all high-and-mighty, like first-time-mom Holly.)
My children’s differences help me to see the big picture – help remind me what’s truly important: loving your child. And loving them for who they are. I can’t make Graham less stubborn and argumentative. That’s just who he is. And I’m not a terrible mother for not being able to change him. (He’d make a heck of a lawyer one day…that’s for sure!)
So to the Sensei that gave up so easily on my kiddo: You might think that I need to knock some sense into my child. You may see him as a disobedient, naughty kid. But I don’t care what you think. He amazing and he’s going to grow up to do amazing things one day. (As long as he doesn’t make me go completely bat-s*** crazy first!)
Do you have a “strong-willed” child? Are your kids as different as mine are?