I get the shudders just thinking about it.
Even still after all these years.
How at only 8 years old, she would sit on our neighbors’ fence. Wait for their horses to come galloping by so she could make the jump. How she would ride bareback through their pasture and how the neighbors never even knew about it.
And neither did I.
Not until later when she confessed.
Oh, child of mine. What am I supposed to do with you?
Except she’s no longer a child anymore.
She’s all of 20 and quite grown up.
She’s a lovely, caring person. A dreamer and a writer. Talented and smart.
But how could I have known all that back then?
Back when she was a screamer. A fighter. An unpredictable phenomenon.
I kid you not.
She was a challenge. What some might call “a handful.” A high-maintenance child.
And she was mine.
She’s the one who would fall off her chair in the middle of the room. Plop! Onto the floor. For no apparent reason. She’s the one I’d say, “Focus, Savoury. Focus!” numerous times every day.
Her happy place was sitting deep in a mud puddle. I would look out in the backyard and feel that twinge of guilt. “You really should call her in,” I’d say to myself. But I’ll confess that I didn’t want to. She was safe. And better yet, she was surprisingly content there.
And it gave me a break.
I used to ask God about her. Mostly wondering what He could possibly have been thinking to make me her mom? And ask Him why she didn’t come with set of instructions? A guidebook of some kind?
Why would He give this no-rules, all-heart, free-spirit child . . . to a structured, organized, pull-it-together mom such as me?
I loved her, of course. But at times I struggled to like her, if you know what I mean. I had to pray about that one. Plead with God to help me understand her. To accept her. To truly enjoy her.
But just so you know? I do like her now. Like her and love her. A lot.
Something I couldn’t have known when she was sitting there happily splashing in the mud puddle. Spontaneously falling off her chair. Or freely riding bareback around the neighbors’ property.
How could I have known back then?
This is also the same girl I called last week to say that her young special-needs sister was going into emergency surgery. Just to update her so she could pray.
But that wasn’t good enough for her.
She told me, “Mom, I’m going to get someone to cover my shift at work and I’m coming home.”
I tried to protest, “Oh, I don’t want you to jeopardize your job, Honey.”
But she ran right over the top of me (see? a wonderful quality at times). “I can always get another job. I’m coming home because you’re going to need help.”
And it turned out that she was right. We did need help and she was there for us.
She sat in the hospital room with her sister for hours. Even when we brought her home, Savoury slept on the lumpy couch that night, so she could be right there in case her sister woke up and needed something.
These are all things that you don’t realize when you’re a mom and your kid is happiest sitting in a mud puddle. And you wonder if she’s ever going to get along in the “real world” or if she will ever learn to stay in a chair.
So if you’re a parent of a challenging child, I thought I’d pass along a few things I wish someone would have told me. A simple set of instructions for you and for that child.
Handle-With-Care Instructions For the Challenging Child
Accept your child for how God made him/her.
Don’t try to change your child. Sure, guide them and instruct them. Secretly scratch your head over them, but embrace their quirky, out-of-the-mold selves. Don’t express disappointment or disapproval. Instead, point out the positives and look for bright points. Believe me, there are lots of them!
Gently help your child to learn to function in the “real world.”
Gently. Your child might need some help in the social graces or relationship skills or even the simple basics of doing what needs to be done. So a loving parent will patiently teach those things – possibly stuff that comes more “naturally” to other children. Just don’t squeeze them so hard to try and make them “fit in.”
Determine to laugh more than you cry.
Quite honestly? I wasted tears over this child. Now that we have a younger son who has some similar characteristics, I mostly laugh and hug him a lot. I’m excited to see how his strong personality traits will play out as he grows older—convinced that he’s going to do something really wonderful some day!
Never give up on your child.
I recently asked our dear girl what was the hardest thing when she was a child? She said it was when I threw up my hands over her. When I said things like, “I give up” or other such expressions of despair. And it nearly broke my heart to hear it.
I was so focused on my own frustration that I didn’t realize the impact it would have on her own young life.
So if you have a challenging child?
Make sure you communicate how thrilled you are with your child. They need to know that you believe in them and have confidence in the plans God has for them. And they need to hear it more from you than from anyone else.
Remember to handle their hearts with care.
In His grace,
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