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On Raising a Spitfire



[spit-fahyuh r]

  1. A person, especially a girl or woman, who is of fiery temper and easily provoked to outbursts.


Last month my husband was a guest writer and defined the word “plan.” Which is now ironic, because I started this blog post a few months ago and for various reasons had put it on the back burner, but I too had started with a definition.  See, Ryan started his article articulating what the word "plan" means. And the title of this blog describes our third child, our second daughter, Katherine Elizabeth. I say it’s ironic because we “planned” for Kates. We tried for many, many, many months. 8 to be exact. Which, ok, I know, isn’t very long in hindsight, but to someone who got pregnant the first two times pretty easily, this third time threw us for a loop. Well, as we’ve already heard from my husband, sometimes your “plans” are not what you expect at all.

Our four kids are all unique, extremely different children. They each have their own quirks and ideas and the way they navigate their little lives. Each personality is their own. But our third child, oh, our lovely, spunky third child? Well, she has personality overload. She’s what some may call “a spitfire.” She entered this world after forty-eight hours of labor with many complications. When she finally emerged, she was crying full blast. Then we promptly named her after her Polish great grandma (who she was aptly named for, but that’s an entire other blog).

kates baby
Children aren't born to be trained or formed into a second-hand version of ourselves. They are born to love and be loved so they can grow into the most vibrant, unique, brilliant version of themselves possible. -LR Knost

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out and about in public with all our kids, but somehow Kates outshines the rest. You know how you’ve been to parties or places where for whatever reason you’re drawn to a specific person? All eyes in the room somehow gravitate towards that one face? That’s Kates. When Kates enters a room, she dominates. She “arrives.”  But I also can’t tell you how many times Kates draws the random comments. The snide remarks. The eye rolls and the snickers. The perfectly coiffed southern women who just can’t resist leaving me with….

“Oh, she’s a pistol!”

“ My! What a fierce personality!”

“She seems to be spirited!”

“Bless her heart, I bet she’s something else!

Or my favorite (read: most heard) comment is:

“She seems sort of wild. I bet you have your hands full with that one.”

And what’s interesting in all these situations where I receive these lovely, unsolicited comments, is the fact that 9 times out of 10, Kates is being good. She’s listening and (mostly) obeying. She’s likely with her siblings. She’s not melting down in the checkout line at Target and she’s not tearing into the stuff the stores strategically place at little people’s reach. She could be climbing in and out of the cart or saying “Mama, MAma, MAMA!!!” over and over. But she’s not bothering anyone else (except maybe me or her brother). She’s not running away across a parking lot or tormenting other kids on the playground.

She's just being herself.

That’s right. She’s being true to her own personality. And for whatever reason, people feel the need to point this out to me, like it’s not something I’ve picked up on. When Kates is belting out “Let it Go” while we peruse the produce section of Kroger, she’s like an endangered species that people feel called to tell me about. “Do you see her? Wow! She’s so outgoing! You better watch her in 13 years!”

Really? Because what I see is a little three-year-old who has no fear. Who brings a [loud] song and greeting to almost everyone she meets. Who holds doors for strangers and her siblings alike. Who is the first to be empathetic to others' needs. Someone who is keenly aware of other people’s emotions and facial expressions. I see a little girl who loves pairing rain boots with dresses and skirts her “grama Nany” sews. A little girl who has a funky, choppy haircut and a wicked smile. I see someone who takes in all the sights and sounds of wherever we go and has the memory of an elephant.

What I’m witnessing is a little girl who doesn’t care what color skin you have, or what clothing style you’re sporting, or what job you have. She embraces everyone—kids and adults---equally. She loves big and her love knows no bounds.

Kates expresses more and feels more and expects more.

That’s right. She expects more than her other siblings. Maybe it really is her “spitfire” personality, but a lot of days she’s either hot or cold. I’m not going to sugar coat this blog post and say that raising Kates is easy. Raising no child is easy, but when you have, dare I use the word, a spirited child, raising that child is especially no easy feat. There’s been a lot of days in her short three years that Kates is either “on” or “off”; either happy and carefree or melting down to epic proportions. She’s equally quick with a smile or tears. She has a strong will and many days there are power struggles over it.

But those are the days Kates expects more. More from me, her mom.

"Strong-willed children become adults who change the world as long as we can hang on for the ride and resist the temptation to "tame" the spirit out of them."

It’s my job to help Kates to be the best Kates she can be. It’s my job to love her, guide her, encourage her, educate her and when necessary, discipline her. It’s my job to feed, clothe and protect her. But it’s also my job to let Kates be Kates.

It’s not my job to change her or mold her. It’s definitely not my job to control her personality or whip her into submission. It especially bothers me when people look at me like I created her to be the way she is and expect me to stifle her strong will. I didn’t create her. My God created her.  It’s my responsibility to take her passions and train her to use those to live for Him. To love and serve others. To be the best Kates she can be. I like to think of myself as Kates’ gate keeper. Sometimes the answer will be “no,” and she’ll  crash and thrash against the locked gate. But other days, the answer will be “yes,” and the gate will open. She’ll be free to walk through and explore. She’ll be able to navigate on her own, away from the safety of the place she just left.

And isn’t that what we all expect from those in our tribe? Don’t we expect more gatekeepers in our lives? Those people that can tell us “NO! bad idea!” or give us a “Yes! Go for it! I’ll be here to support you!”

Don’t we all expect more love, more compassion, more understanding?

I’m not too sensitive to the “comments” I receive when I’m out and about. Usually more often than not, I respond with a laugh like it’s an inside joke. Sometimes I let out a snarky comeback. But later I think, what really bothers me the most is the fact that all the response Kates garnishes, they’re said in a disapproving voice. Like it’s wrong for a child, a little girl for that matter, to have such a strong personality at such a young age. But if you read all the comments I listed above, they actually can read as accolades. They’re GOOD WORDS. STRONG WORDS.

I pray every day for my children, but sometimes I pray extra prayers for my beautiful Kates. I pray that the people she encounters don’t snuff out her love for life, her empathy or her boundless energy. I pray for her future husband to fully accept her. And I pray that we all can light our inner spitfire, just like Kates does.

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