I tried not to giggle as I watched the picture on the screen shake a bit. I was recording the holiday pageant that my son was performing in at daycare, but he was making it hard for me to hold the phone steady as he twirled and leaped across the stage with a big grin on his face, leaving me attempting to choke back the laughter that was threatening to escape my lips.
So there I sat, taking deep breaths and pretending to avert my eyes, because one look at the teacher’s face told me that she did not approve of what my son was doing — or my reaction to it.
You see, he was the only one leaping and twirling across the stage because all of the other children were standing in a straight line singing a song — doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing.
But, nope, not him, because he is “that kid.”
I’m referring to the kid who is always the loudest and most rambunctious of the group. The kid who practically demands attention from the people around him. The kid whose name teachers silently curse and whose antics often make the dinner-table stories told by their friends at school. The kid with restless legs and a megaphone voice. The kid everyone knows. That’s my son.
I do not have easy children. They are easy to love but not always easy to raise. They are opinionated and smart, and I fear that in order to hold my own in an argument, I will actually need a law degree by the time they reach high school. They have their own minds and are not afraid to tell me what they think. And while my older daughter has remained relatively quiet in her domineering ways, my 4-year-old son has taken his sister’s personality to a whole new level.
While many people might be quick to assume that he is harboring a future ADHD diagnosis or that his behavior is the result of bad parenting, the truth is that there is nothing wrong with him — unless it’s a problem that he loves life. As his doctor repeatedly assures me, some kids are born with the volume turned up, in the same way that shier kids appear to be born on mute.
With his booming voice and stomping feet, I can hear my son coming down the stairs in the morning with such gusto that I can practically feel his excitement to conquer the day. As he throws open the fridge while making squealing noises about everything he is excited to eat, I can’t help but look at him and smile because I can literally see his enthusiasm for life in every cell of his being.
By the time I have wrestled him into his clothes and managed to contain his tiny yet ridiculously energized body in the car seat, he is already chatting about all of the things he is excited to do at daycare that day.
“See all of my friends!”
“Share my stickers with Lily!”
“Play on the playground!”
“Build a tower with the blocks!”
And upon leaving the parking lot after dropping him off, I briefly look at the daycare building in my rearview mirror and think of him, most likely already well into building his block tower, chatting at the top of his lungs, asking all of his friends to play with him, and smiling from ear to ear.
Eight hours later, when I pick him up, I spend a few minutes talking with his teacher about how he behaved that day.
“Oh, he was good,” she said. “He shared some of his stickers with Lily and helped Owen with his ice pack when Owen bumped his head. He didn’t want to sit down for story time because he wanted to read the book to the class, and he wanted to be the classroom job helper every time, so we had to have a little chat about sharing. He didn’t want to make a paper dinosaur in art class because he wanted to make his own project, and he was screaming his head off every time he went down the slide. But other than that, he was good.”
Before I had my son, I’ll admit I felt bad for the parents of “that kid.” As a former daycare provider, difficult kids stressed me out and — I’m not going to lie — made my life harder. And, in many ways, my son probably does make my life harder than the lives of parents of “average energy” children, but I wouldn’t change him for the world.
My son has a passion for life that lets me know he appreciates living. He’s so loud that others cannot help but notice his leadership qualities. He wants to be seen because he has the self-esteem that I wish I had. He wants to be in charge because he feels smart, and he can debate with anyone because he actually is smart.
When I look at the leaders of our world, I see people who weren’t afraid to be different, who had the confidence to say what they were thinking, and who possessed the enthusiasm to stand out in a crowd.
So “that kid” — the one leaping across the stage while the other children are standing still — sure, I’ll have a chat with him later about following directions. But don’t hate me if in the meantime you catch me smiling at his zest for life. Because that kid — the one who gives me 30 kisses instead of one and nearly suffocates me with his over-the-top hugs — is my kid. I wouldn’t change him, because he is going to change the world.
He has already changed mine.
(Photos: Eden Strong)