The Wild Child

There’s always one kid in the group. One kid that won’t sit still, one kid that giggles out loud without restraint, and one kid that marches to the beat of their one drum. In this group, that kid is mine.

Our city has a relatively new program that has been so amazing for our growing toddler, just to give you a littler background, Learn & Play, brought to you by the Glazer Children’s Museum and the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, is a free educational play group held at various community centers and libraries throughout the Tampa Bay area. It’s engaging and fun and my kid loves it.

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But sometimes I’ll get looks from the other moms, sometimes it’s sympathy or concern (or a look that says I feel ya mama), but really my kid is just being herself and I’d never dream of punishing her for that. Still, a little while back I found myself apologizing for her. After having to step out during circle time – twice, and calming a hysterical two year old in the hallway as she held my face in her hands and tried to explain through her tears that she was upset, I had felt the need to say sorry.

She simply wanted to play with a baby’s Sophie the Giraffe doll and I wouldn’t let her for obvious reasons (it’s a teething toy). So I took into the hall and calmly told her that I understood that she was upset. I wiped her tears and brushed her hair out of her face and allowed her to vent in all her babbling glory. With her in that hall, I didn’t feel embarrassed or sorry. I felt for her. I felt for her frustration and not wanting to take a seat and listen to a song. I felt for her and how overwhelming those big feelings were at that moment.

I was calm, collected, and showing her that I understood in the best way I knew how – by showing her love and affection.

Yet, after we walked in and she ran around a bit more, and circle time was over I apologized. I apologized for her getting hysterical and for her spilling a bowl of beads all over the floor. Not that she did it on purpose, she was curious as to what in the bowl and just tilted it towards her so she could see. Boom. Dozens of tiny beads meant for a craft activity were everywhere.

I don’t know why I felt the urge to say I was sorry for her behavior, but one of the teachers gave me the best response I’ve ever heard, and exactly what I needed to hear.

She said, “No. Don’t be sorry. She’s spirited, and really, she’s just two. Toddlers are supposed to explore and be loud and act out. While it might be easier for us if they sat quietly and did as we asked, that’s not how it works and it’s not what you want either.”

She was right.

“You want her to know that she has a voice that she can stop and say – hey mom, this activity is just not for me – and that’s a super important skill that you want her to have. I see so many girls and women who lack the confidence to even say no or feel like they have to do this or that, even if they don’t. She uses her voice, let her.”

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I couldn’t have agreed more with that teacher and decided to make a conscious effort to stop apologizing because my kid dances when the music moves her and wears her rainbow rain boots everywhere she goes and decides to lay in the center of circle time and take it all in for a moment. The last thing I want is for her to ever hear me apologize for anything she does when she’s simply being herself, especially when I wouldn’t have it any other.

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