A few weeks ago, Catch took Charlotte to one of her YMCA classes for the first time. As the kids sat in a circle with their parents and sang songs, Charlotte ran around like a wild animal. Catch tried to control her, and one of the other moms said, “Oh, Charlotte is always like this—sitting still just isn’t her thing.”
And there, summed up in a single sentence by a perfect stranger is the core of my daughter. Sitting still just isn’t her thing.
Charlotte needs a lot. Constantly. She does not stop. She challenges every rule. She requires near-constant input. She is fearless and curious and that combination is often dangerous and/or destructive.
Her emotions are larger than life. When she is happy, you feel her joy all the way to your bones. When she is angry, she is a force to be reckoned with. When she is sad, even the dogs plead with us to make it better.
Our daughter is light and sound and speed. There is no calm before her storm.
For a while, we lived in a little bubble where we believed that this must just be the norm. She’s a kid. Kids are crazy. Ours is no exception. It wasn’t until we started spending more time around kids her age in a group setting that we realized that she’s actually a bit more than the norm.
Yesterday when I drove our nanny home, she told me about Charlotte’s day. They were in one of her YMCA classes, and she was hugging the baby brother of one of her friends. He’s a little over a year old. It turns out that her hug was just a bit too enthusiastic, and they both toppled over onto the (padded) floor. The nannies rushed in to get them both upright, and no harm was done, but our nanny looked up and saw that the mom of one of the other kids was glaring at her and Charlotte. She sort of laughed it off as she re-told the story and said, “She’s new to the class so she just doesn’t know how Charlotte is!”
How Charlotte is.
I feel like my heart broke a little bit right then.
Most days, I consider how Charlotte is to be a compliment because how Charlotte is is fucking incredible. But right now, we’re struggling with her, and all of a sudden, how Charlotte is feels like some kind of a red flag. It feels like people are saying, “Your kid is… different.” Right now, different does not feel like a compliment. Different feels like, “Holy crap, people—get a handle on your kid before this whole place goes up in flames!”
Confession: Catch and I can barely handle our child these days. This morning I broke down in tears as she screamed and threw her body around the house in a tantrum so violent that she sliced her toe open. I was late for work and panicked because I am on thin ice at work. I cannot afford to be late. Again. Right then, I really needed to not be sitting on my living room floor wiping away my daughter’s fountain of snot and tears with my t-shirt.
She wouldn’t let me put a bandage on her bleeding toe. No amount of rocking or singing or Elmo or pancakes was calming her. The nanny couldn’t even look in her direction without escalating things. She stood just outside the door, peeking in every so often to make eye contact with me and raise an eyebrow as a silent “How can I help you right now?”
When all of the bodily fluids had slowed to a minimum, and Charlotte sat still on my lap hiccupping the last sobs away, our nanny looked at me and said, “You’re doing such a great job.”
I know she meant it, but all I could think was that if this was me doing a great job—late for work, still in my pajamas, covered in bodily fluids, longing for my cup of now-cold coffee, holding a child who was staring at both the television AND the iPad—well, if that’s “great” then someone has obviously lowered the bar.
That’s par for the course these days. Things really started to escalate about two weeks ago, and we tried to explain it away, but it’s just getting worse. I even took her to the doctor on Monday morning because I was convinced something must be wrong.
I called Catch when I was finally on my way to work this morning and tearfully asked her what happened to our little girl. Her storm used to be like April showers and suddenly it’s more like a hurricane. All we can do is batten down the hatches and shield ourselves from the worst of it.
There are lots of words thrown about in parenting circles when you’re talking about a kid like this—more and spirited come to mind most readily. She is certainly both of those things, and she always has been. Up until now we’ve managed just fine, but today we are filling queues with books and articles because we’re at a loss. For the first time, we’re feeling like we need more help than Google and mom groups can provide.
Wish us luck.