We call them the “wild ones.”

They’re the ones we just can’t seem to figure out.

The ones who defy all the rules. The ones who march to their own kick-drum beat. The ones who say whatever is on their heart no matter who is in the room. The ones who have no regard for “being careful” when bouncing through a playground. The ones who should go into sales with all of that ability to negotiate.

My wild one has been extra wild lately.

Last night she threw the tantrum of her life. The red was in her eyes. The frustrated words came flying off her tongue. Legs and arms were flailing. The defiance and stubbornness were center stage.

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My mama instincts knew this was one of those beyond-exhausted meltdowns that I just had to wait out. It was intense enough that I had to step out of the room for just a second to take a couple of deep breaths and remind myself how I want to be treated when I’m depleted.

There were moments when I just wanted to yell and get defensive when she told me I was the worst mom ever.

Instead of remembering that she’s four. And tired—TIRED, it should be noted, as a result of me letting her stay up late the night before watching a movie because I just didn’t have the bedtime routine in me.

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Thirty minutes later, and 30 minutes prior to her normal bedtime she was snuggled into my arms on the rocker in my bedroom the way she did as a newborn—legs hanging over the side where they once fit right into my lap.

The only sounds that filled the room were her preferred-bedtime song choice of “24K Magic” by Bruno on repeat combined with her recovery hiccup breaths from her marathon crying session.

I felt my own body and mind calm into the cadence of the rocker. I shook my head and smiled slightly as I looked down at her slow-blinking eyes and marinated in the world that IS parenting this wild one.

But a few moments before she finally gave in to the exhaustion—she took one of her arms from underneath her chest and put it around my neck and pulled me in just a little bit.

I knew what it meant.

She doesn’t say “I love you” often.

She has a hard time saying “I’m sorry.”

Using words to express herself isn’t her thing . . . something that this word-loving, writer mama has had a hard time understanding.

But I’ve learned that when she hugs you like that, it’s her peace offering. It’s HER way of saying I love you, and HER expression of “I’m sorry.” And I have to learn to be OK with that.

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We call them the wild ones.

But maybe they’re just the ones who aren’t like us . . . so we label them that way.

Maybe they’re the ones who are supposed to teach us how to meet people where THEY are and not where we want them to be.

Maybe they’re the ones who teach us that if we show a little compassion and patience . . . that they’ll let us into their beautiful, wild world . . .

So we can see how it feels to be unapologetically ourselves.

Originally published on The Thinking Branch

Brea Schmidt

Brea Schmidt is a writer, speaker and photographer who aims to generate authentic conversation about motherhood and daily life on her blog, The Thinking Branch. Through her work, she aims to empower people to overcome their fears and insecurities and live their truth. She and her husband raise their three children in Pittsburgh, PA.