Parenting the Free-Spirited

I get it. I wasn’t a normal kid growing up. I was spirited. I did things my own way. I didn’t want to be fit in a box with labels and I did everything that I could growing up to keep people on their toes. I was a unique, free-spirited child that enjoyed a bit of mischief and psychological warfare. I’m really not afraid to admit that I still have these same tendencies. This attitude has kept me sane and surprisingly out of the typical drama that adults deal with. Because I genuinely don’t care. The other parents want to make fun of my custom Chucks or my really warm hat and stained winter coat, let them. I’m not dressed like a blizzard is coming at any moment for them; I like being warm and cozy in winter. and if you want to look stylish and freeze, that’s your issue.

My children each have a bit of this free-spirit in them, though my oldest child is far more reserved. It’s challenging, especially as a parent, because you want them to follow basic rules of behavior but at the same time you don’t want them to lose that free spirit. My youngest has been the biggest challenge with this, primarily because he doesn’t have time to bother with whatever social norms are expected of him unless it really matters to him like when he’s teased for his uniqueness. For instance, when kids at school made fun of his Skechers shoes because they weren’t Nike or Under Armor shoes and my husband proceeded to buy him a new pair of shoes because my husband was scarred from some incidents where our child was teased for being Asian and it was important to “minimize what they could tease him about”.

He has always just marched to his own drum. From his alternating between sleeping, waving, and acrobats during ultrasounds, we knew from the start that he was going to be his own man. He was born in September and by Thanksgiving, he was rolling around like a madman. I remember telling the pediatrician and he laughed at me saying “It’s too early for that”. He didn’t laugh when my spirited little child tried to roll of the exam table and the doctor looked at me and said “Yeah, you have a mover on your hands.” Developmental milestones meant nothing to this child, whether it was inch-worming by Christmas or not speaking until he was 4, my little guy decided he was going to just do things his own way.

There’s a fine line that needs to be walked here, one where picking your battles gets a little harder. Because it ends up that everything is a battle. Bedtimes are rude and I’m the worst for enforcing them. How dare I expect him to wear pants when guests come to our house? You do want to encourage the independent spirit, even if there’s a bit of defiance behind everything he says. When you don’t encourage the independent spirit, you end up with someone who follows whatever is the popular thing at the moment or blindly follows a political party without questioning it. It’s not about raising someone to be molded in your image or into this perfect, ideal child; it’s about raising someone into the person that they are supposed to be.

It’s going to be a complicated struggle. You will end up sobbing behind the closed door of your bedroom because you’re on the verge of breaking down. But the most important thing is to not break their spirit in your goal of trying to teach them how to be both good people and free spirits. I wish I could offer some advice on the best approach, but I’m just winging it where some days are better than others. But that’s kinda my advice on anything parenting related. We’re all just trying to make it out alive with children who grow up to be reasonably functioning but not totally damaged adults.

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