Teyla, who will be one on Friday, is attempting her first word this week.
That scares me, just a little.
My intuition tells me this is the child who will necessitate Christmas cards sent annually to the emergency room staff. This is the child who will attempt to cut her own hair with gardening shears. This is the child who will make my hair go gray before I pull it out.
She’s so inquisitive. So smart. So opinionated. So persistent.
I don’t like labels all that much, especially labels that carry a negative connotation. I don’t like how they box people in and set up preconceived (and often self-fulfilling) notions.
But in this case, it is what it is. Teyla is the sweetest baby. Her grin makes the air around her crackle with joy. She giggles and shrieks and discovers her way through each waking moment. But she is also a spitfire and raising her will be an extreme sport, both exhilarating and dangerous.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in my seven years of parenting, it’s that each child is unique and thus requires their own unique parenting style. All of my kids are strong-willed in their own way. (It’s what happens when a strong-willed woman marries a stubborn man.) Natalie’s iron will doesn’t come out unless she’s backed into a corner, and even then, she tries to sheath it in velvet. Connor is willing to obey, as long as he agrees with the request. If not, he would rather hold his ground and die than give in.
And Teyla, at 11 months, is already paving her own path.
She will not be restrained by straps in shopping carts. It’s common for me to be seen wandering the aisles of Target with one hand grasping the back of her tiny shirt as she stands in the cart seat – with the belt still around her midsection – facing forward and shrieking. (I jokingly tell the amazed onlookers that she’s a born surfer.)
She does not feel it necessary to actually sit in her high chair. Five minutes after I buckle her in for a meal, she is free of the seat and sitting on the tray, dangling a chubby foot – now sockless, of course – over the edge, as if she was sitting on a lakeside dock on a summer’s day.
She has fallen down the stairs. Twice.
She has taught me what it means to fear silence.
(As I’m writing this, she is in the laundry room pulling down her sibling’s bags of Halloween candy. She already has a huge Tootsie Roll – still in the wrapper – stuffed in her mouth. Oy.)
When she wants something, she points to it and shrills. “Dat! Dat!” When denied her prize – like my coffee, for instance – she howls. If she’s feeling particularly dramatic, she throws in an arched back for good measure.
For the most part, Corey and I just laugh at our tiny dictator’s antics. We like to say our kids don’t know who they are messing with. We are strong-willed black belts. It’s tiring, parenting such determined children. But we know that with great strength comes great potential. And we pray that our own journeys, filled with battles and scars and profound humblings, will give us wisdom as we attempt to steer these wild stallions.
Because trying to parent these little ones without the help of The One who made them?
That’s the real uh-oh.
Kelly also blogs at Love Well.