Don’t forget to check on your tough kid.
Kids, especially young ones, usually wear their emotions on their sleeves. If something hurts, they cry. If something makes them mad, they yell. And yet, sometimes they don’t understand their emotions at all. They’re hungry? They cry. They’re frustrated? They cry. They want a different toy or wish their friend would share? They cry. Or, they throw a full-on fit and kick and scream and yell and throw things and you have absolutely no idea what the real problem is, and neither do they.
Then, there are the other kids. The ones who run screaming through the house and jump on the couch and slam their toys together. They love to wrestle and throw things around. They go barreling through the yard and you watch them hit the pavement—hard. You wait to see a reaction. You wait to see the tears. They jump up, dust off, and are right back at it.
You lovingly call them your “wild child” or your “tough one” or the one with all the “personality”.
They are the kids who can’t be tamed. They are the ones they speak of when they say some kids could run with the wolves. They are the ones who are ruled by their wild spirits, and nothing can get them down.
But, sometimes, some things can.
My youngest is my wild child. She just turned four and is the definition of rough and tumble. She loves to roar with her dinosaurs. She loves to go barreling through the yard with our huge dogs and laughs as they literally plow her over. She loves to kick a ball, to wield a sword, and to see all of her toys fight it out. There is rarely a day she doesn’t come home with a new bruise. They stopped calling from preschool. They send notes now, in her backpack. They talk about how she jumped off the swings, tripped running through the playground, etc. She can’t be slowed down.
However, she still loves just as fiercely. She’s still a typical 4-year-old in that sense. She wants praise and adoration. She wants to hold your hand in the moments she is ready to stand still. She wants the biggest bear hugs and to ride on your shoulders every chance she gets.
She wants to know how much she’s loved.
So, every night, after she sprints to her room and somersaults into her bed, I lie with her for a few minutes. I give her hugs and play with her hair and try to help her unwind from her wild day. I tell her how much I love her and hope she has the sweetest dreams.
The other night, as I tucked her in, I told her to get to sleep so she’d have a good day at school the next day. She said she hoped that her friends would be nice to her tomorrow. I asked if her friends were nice to her today and she quickly replied no. She said they told her they didn’t want to play with her again today.
My heart broke. How many times had her friends left her to play alone? How many times had she had her feelings hurt at school? How hard was it for her little mind to understand these feelings she was feeling?
My “tough one” who can wreck her bike and get right back on it was feeling emotionally hurt.
It was so horrible to hear. I hated to think of her feeling alone or confused. I hated to think of her feeling rejected.
Granted, kids her age don’t usually mean to exclude. They don’t usually mean to leave others out or to hurt feelings. They may have just wanted to play something different than she was playing. They may be frightened or overwhelmed with her boisterous personality. They may have just been tired or hungry that day and wanted to play alone. But, I wish I had been there to explain to her. I wish I had noticed she was hurting.
She’s so full of life it’s hard to see when hers is hard.
So, I encourage you all: check in on your tough kid.
Remind them it’s OK to be sad and it’s OK to feel hurt when they are. Don’t assume just because they can handle the hardest falls that they can handle the toughest days.
After all, even the bravest and the strongest just want a little extra love sometimes.
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