I've written before about my daughter, Athena, and how we chose her name. We wanted our girl to have a name that was strong, assertive, and confident in a world that doesn't value these traits enough in girls. Well, our prayer was answered. And then some.
From her earliest days, I felt Athena was different. If I'm honest with myself, I'll admit that on many of those early days, I wasn't sure different was a good thing. Oh, don't get me wrong, I loved Athena more than I'd ever loved anyone, bu
t she was such a far cry (pun very much intended) from the other babies I knew.
From her earliest days, she cried often and persistently, and we were pretty sure there was no cause aside from boredom. We couldn't drive 5-minutes down the street without a meltdown. She would cry so fervently that I’d pull over to the side of the road in a panic, checking to see if it was a wet diaper, hunger, too hot or too cold. It was none of these things. She simply wanted stimulation.
She wanted to nurse constantly. Her sleep patterns were irregular. When her needs weren't met, she arched her back in fury and cried with zeal - long before the fabled "tantrum years." She hit all of her milestones on time or early and didn't show any emotional deficits – so we weren’t necessarily feeling the need to have her evaluated for a disability - but we knew her personality was trying and tested us to our limits.
I often wondered what I was doing wrong and felt envious of my friends. I know we’re not supposed to compare, but other moms were seemingly able to go on with their lives after having babies, watch TV shows each week, go on kid-friendly trips, maintain friendships and hobbies, while I struggled just to survive, sleep, and not lose my cool. (For the record, I failed at the latter too many times to count).
So who are these "spirited" or "high-need" children? They often get described as strong-willed, intense, persistent, sensitive, active, intelligent and leaders. The early days were so trying that I admittedly often used less flattering descriptors of my child: "She's all drama all the time," I would tell people.
Now that she's older, while her temperament certainly challenges me at times, I adore the unique and positive aspects of her personality. I believe if we steer her right she could grow up to be the kind of adult who stands up against injustice, leads a cause she’s passionate about or helps those in need. I adore her inquisitiveness, the way her mind works, her kind spirit, her intelligence and her compassion.
During the last four years, I've read a ton about Spirited Children. So how can you tell in the early years if you've been blessed with one of these unique children? While it can be hard to tell, especially with your first child, here are some early indicators.
*Note: all children go through strong-willed phases, particularly during the toddler years, and a baby who cries a lot may be crying due to a physical cause that will disappear with time. What I’m describing here is an overall and persistent personality type.
Photo Credit: http://www.slate.com/
High-need kids tend to be slow to wean from objects of comfort. Weaning from nursing is often exceptionally hard. Ours involved a 3-month period of prolonged tantrums.
If you yourself are intense, driven, intelligent, and a little on the Type A side, chances are decent you may have passed on these genes to your offspring.
So why discuss this on a website devoted to health and fitness? My next article will offer tips for parents of spirited children, to help them embrace healthy living and to help you with coping skills, since your life may feel different from that of other parents.