I wrote this piece 20 years ago from the perspective of my second son whose spirit was sometimes more than he, or any of us, could manage. It helped other parents to understand their children so it is in that spirit I share it now. Dedicated to Drew Wakutz.
Hi! My name, although very important to me, is not relevant to what I have to say. I am a spirited child. I am often exuberantly overjoyed or I can be uncontrollably angry – seldom in between. You never have to guess how I feel about anything. I need to have control over me and my surroundings. I know there are things I have no choice in whether or not I do but, give me a choice in how they get done and I’ll try to cooperate. I like to do a good job, especially when its a job I choose to do and one I think is important. I have a lot of determination and I don’t like to be interrupted when I’m focused on a task. Give me a little time, a warning, when things have to change or happen and I’ll cope a lot better.
I like to plan ahead and be prepared, let me know what to expect or what you expect from me beforehand and things will go smoother. I get very confused when people’s faces and gestures don’t match what they say. I prefer honesty. If people try to hide their feelings from me or keep secrets, it’s like just challenging me to uncover the mystery! I feel things deeply, all things. Other people’s reactions and moods often affect my own. When I get out of control, I need the people around me to be calm. Teach me self control, don’t try to control me. I wish when you see me out of control, instead of looking at me as if I were strange, give me some space, a chance to calm down, remind me gently what my choices are, what I need to do to calm down. I don’t like feeling that way. I am so full of feelings, there just isn’t any room in my head for thinking. When I’m myself again I feel bad, so please, don’t remind me how I sounded, what I said or did or how I looked. What I really need to know is that you love me and that I’m okay, and you’re not ashamed of me.
When I love – I love intensely, when I hurt – I hurt deeply, when I laugh – I laugh boisterously, when I cry – I find it hard to stop. I have a lot of energy and it just takes me over sometimes. If I can’t get rid of it physically, I’m pretty creative at finding ways to use my energy. I know I often tire my mom out but I know she loves me. Sometimes she makes mistakes, but she says mistakes, even the whoppers I make are okay, as long as we learn from them.
Sometimes, Mama screams and yells and cries, we all feel bad. When I do those things, Mama says I’m SPIRITED. I think Mama must be spirited too. When I turn a hanger or two twigs into a bow and arrow, a brush and dustpan into a fiddle or when I want to colour the same picture for five days in a row until its just right, Mama says that takes spirit. When I invent new words or new things, when I create what Mama calls “my masterpieces” or when I figure out just the right way to get that candy hidden on the top shelf behind the big can in the little plastic tub, Mama says, yes – I’ve got SPIRIT! Spirit must be what makes my Mama still twinkle her eyes and hold me close after I’ve made a big mess; spirit must be what makes her count before she talks to me after I have done something I shouldn’t have, and spirit must definitely be what Mama has when she tells someone that I’m not bad, that I just need space, that I don’t like to be rushed into things and that – that was just my creativity showing. My Mama lets me know that my spirit is what makes me ME and spirit is something to be proud of.