My oldest was a trying, difficult, colicky, and just downright exhausting baby. His tantrums and episodes stumped and overwhelmed some of the most experienced moms I know. He was tough (and still is a little headstrong) but we got through it and never loved him any less.
Not too long ago, I ran into an older woman who I see quite infrequently but knows my family. She asked how my boys were and mentioned said “and I imagine you still have your hands full with your older boy, he was always so difficult.”
I felt a sting. Yes, he was difficult, but he’s not a bad kid. How dare this woman insinuate that I have a horrible and difficult child?!?!
Then I caught myself. How many times had I used the word “difficult” when I was describing my own son?
I was irked and it stuck with me, but it hit me again recently when I heard an acquaintance respond to a question about her teenager, “ugh, she’s just out of control, selfish and rude.” I was taken aback – did she just say that about her own daughter? How would that make her daughter feel?
I thought back about how often I described my son as “difficult”. Or even now how when I’m asked how the boys are, I use words like “crazy” or “stubborn” or “challenging” or “off the wall”. Of course they are, they are 2 little boys.
I love my boys to the end of the earth and they are all of those things. But they are also “sweet” and “funny” and “creative” and “kind” and “athletic” and “full of life.” Why am I not using those descriptive words when I’m asked how they are, instead of the “My kids are a handful and I’m an exhausted mom” response?
I do believe that those words we use are absorbed by our kids when they hear it and I’m changing my tune. I do think my boys are smart, funny and full of life even if they have a teeny, tiny bit of a challenge mixed in. I promise to think about my words, just as I expect of them. My “difficult” son has so many traits that are admired in adults, he shows leadership, he shows strength and persistence, he has spirit and drive, he also has more sensitivity and wonder than I sometimes realize. He may challenge is moms a little but there’s 100 other wonderful words I could really use to describe him, all of them showing how positive and great he really is.
So, go ahead, ask me about my boys.
I shouldn’t have much trouble using quite a few positive ones, but I can use this for reference as well.