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The unexpected joys of a difficult child

"Thank God she's annoying!" 

The pressure to be an ideal parent is enormous. We read the parenting books and magazines and observe critically, taking mental notes as others raise their kids. We cannot help imagining that our children will inherit our failings and that their tantrums now will lead to a future life of crime. It's not that we don't know how to ignore the small stuff; it's that we're too close. With our kids, all the small stuff seems big.

Wouldn't it be great if we could know that they'll turn out all right? Then we could relax our parenting posture, lose some of that incessant worry, and simply express faith in their abilities and strengths. After all, their strength is the big stuff. Unfortunately we can't know. Wait! What would happen if we just acted like they'll be OK? Could we just enjoy their frustrations and misbehavior, knowing that they are growing and learning in their own way? If we magically found that balance between vigilance and faith, we would surely be more poised and less reactive.

A mother and father were in my pediatric office the other day with their two youngest daughters. The older of the two has a difficult, profound, and unexplained developmental disability. They know that she is not going to be OK. We were concerned that her baby sister may be developing similar traits. At this 1-year-old visit, the baby showed so much physical, social, and language ability that we were all completely reassured. As she had a tantrum in the office, her mother, with relief and pride, exclaimed, "Thank God she's annoying!" Yet another gift in a small package.

In This Guide...

  • The unexpected joys of a difficult child

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