Parenting My Spirited Daughter: Embarrassed to Grateful

It was hot. Seriously, uncomfortably hot on the day I ventured to the playground with my 2- year-old daughter and my mom. I felt like the trophy mom as I took time out of my busy Saturday morning to let my spirited daughter “run with the wind.”

Little did I know how embarrassed I’d feel in just a few short minutes.

We had an unadventurous drive to the park, all of 30 seconds. I was being annoyingly positive, which is one thing my daughter instantly cues in on. Sometimes she plays with my niceness—she rises to the occasion and is this beautiful, charming little girl who listens to every word I say.

That day at the park started no differently. We kissed each other on the cheek. She gave me her “bestest” hug ever. She held my hand as we walked to and from different playground activities. She didn’t lose me in the shuffle of the 8,000 other children. I tell you, I was WINNING.  I felt young and free, like I was running through a field of flowers.

Ok, I’m back…Everyone was looking at me. Everyone was admiring me, people had to be wondering, “how does she do it all?” I mean, I felt great! 


And then, while everyone was staring at me {or so I thought}, Claire pushed a little boy out of the way as he toddled -yeah, barely walked -to a small slide. She shoved him and went down the slide, while his mom watched all of it. I gasped. I must have really believed my little story about the field of flowers. I panicked. I looked around. Everyone was staring at me for real.

A little background: every time something like this happens, I instantly think of the movie “Billy Madison,” where Adam Sandler is in the bathtub and says to the bath faucet, “Stop looking at me swan!” This is what plays in my head whenever people stare at me.

Everything was slow motion.

I can tell you’re on the edge of your seat and want to know what happened after this playground infraction…while everyone was looking. After I internally channeled my phrase, “Stop looking at me swan!,” I went instantly calm, like a trauma nurse that has been in the thick-of-it for hours. I firmly, yet gently {next blog: discuss the simultaneous “firm yet gentle” parenting model} picked up my child and said to her, “we don’t push.” I did the right thing. I was still amazing. I was still beautiful. I was still…looking for my sunglasses because they happened to be misplaced when my 2-year-old slapped me across the face and they went flying under the swings.

I know there are those of you who have been in the same boat. More importantly though, I am thankful that I only buy $5 sunglasses!

Ugh. The trip to the park was nothing compared to the trip home. That was bad. I had my mom tagging along behind. We shamefully left the park immediately but had an entire playground to cross and a parking lot to get to and then into the car. All the while, she was screaming and kicking. I’m pretty sure people thought I was kidnapping her. Why do people think that by the way? Who in the world would take a kid that was acting like that as they left the park?

I tried to remain calm because I knew my spirited child was wound-up and wouldn’t hear a word I said until she calmed down. But I threw in anyway, “What is wrong, Claire? Why would you do that?” My mom chose that moment to say “Don’t worry, honey, no one was looking.” Oh for Pete’s sake, Mother! We definitely knew that wasn’t true.

When we got home, I wrapped my brain around the situation as she took a nap. I went outside and decompressed. I went back to my daughter’s room and took a nap with her. You know what I did when I woke up? I threw up some gratitude and thanked the world for every minute of the day. I thanked God that I had a child who challenged me. I chose to find the good in this situation and laugh a little. I chose to cut myself some slack, and her too.

Photo @Michelle Chambers Photography

I know there are parents who haven’t experienced this, but I have and am constantly kept on my toes. My spirited little girl reacts differently than other children. So, bottom line: who cares if people are looking? Puh-lease…unless they can offer up some words of encouragement, buh- bye. Learning to handle a child, who, a lot of times, has a different way of expression is tough, but enlightening and well worth it.

Oh…and don’t think for a second that I didn’t take a moment to interrupt the little children swinging to get my $5 glasses, while I repeated my mantra {yes, even to kids}, “Stop looking at me swan!”

Do you have a spirited child? How do you handle it when your child acts out in public?



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