Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wrestling a Tornado

Every day I wrestle a tornado, cuddle a cactus, and dance with a dragon;  I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Cuddlers vs. the Pricklies

I don't want to shock you too early in the morning, but it turns out my children are not the same person.  Don't worry, it's a common misconception about large families. It's just easier to lump them into one massive personality of "Charlotte's kids" and deal with them uniformly.  My parenting would be greatly simplified if I was allowed the same luxury, but I've yet to brainwash them into a  hive mentality (seriously, you'd think my constant inability to call them by the right name would have worked, but, alas, it has not).

Anyway, some of my little minions, I mean angels, are cuddlers like their father.  They crawl into my lap and comfortably settle for the duration of my patience.  Others share my "why are you touching me?" personality, answering attempts to cuddle with prickly resistance.

For years dividing the cuddlers from the wigglers was as natural as divvying up the chocolate: some is milk, some is dark.  Sure I prefer milk and my husband takes the dark, but we've learned to share.  Some kids wanted/needed more physical contact that others.

An exception to the rule

And then there came my Joseph.  I've called him before a tornado in a bottle.  His five year old body is strong and incapable of sitting still.  Trying to hold him on your lap is likely to result in accidental bruises as he wiggles, tosses, and jerks away.  Obviously a noncuddler.

And yet?

He began to develop a bit of a tantrum talent.  I've never given into tantrums and, so, never had much of a problem with them.  Joseph, however, was quickly becoming an expert.  His screeching often leading to more aggressive acting out.

I was at a loss.  I observed, I pondered, I prayed, I experimented.  One day, out of the blue, in a moment of rare clarity, I realized he needed more physical contact.  Unlike the other noncuddling kids, his constant motion wasn't about not wanting to be held, it was just an inability to hold still.

Well, who would'a thought?

So I tried to hold him more often.  Not an easy task.  That child is HARD to hold.  He wiggles and I'm always guarding against an elbow to my eye or heal to my shin.  But, within a week of trying, the tantrums receded.  He started seeking me out throughout the day for hugs or a few minutes on my lap or just a quick peck on the cheek.  He still hasn't calmed down for the cuddles, I've just learned to dodge the unintentional attacks.  That child is a dark chocolate disguised in every way as milk.

So every day I wrestle a tornado, cuddle a cactus, and dance with a dragon; I wouldn't have it any other way.

What about you, have you ever had a child who needed the exact opposite of what they're body language was telling you?

post signature


My beautiful blogger today is Mike from Is this Mike on?  It's nice to see parenthood sometimes from the perspective of the father.  Beneath all his tales is the undercurrent of a man trying to do what is best for his wife and children.  He shows this with a mixture of humor, nostalgia, hope, and experience.  Although, if he makes me cry in a post again, I may have to go punch his lights out (Just kidding, Mike!  Keep the tears coming.  I dare you.)

I know I missed the last two posts with Beautiful blogger, but Christine was on my list to add, so let's count the last post as a beautiful blogger award to her!  Thanks again Christine.


  1. That was a great post. Super good parenting skills there. I love the approach you took with the ponder, praying, observing, experimenting (I can't think of everything you said but it was good).

    We have had four uncuddly kids. Our last is finally a cuddler. But he's getting so big so fast. It makes me just a little sad.

  2. Wow, Joseph sounds a LOT like Harrison, our resident tornado. I think I might try to squeeze him a couple extra times a day to see if that will help.
    By the way, I had to laugh out loud at the whole
    I don't want to shock you too early in the morning, but it turns out my children are not the same person. Don't worry, it's a common misconception about large families. It's just easier to lump them into one massive personality of "Charlotte's kids" and deal with them uniformly. So true!!!!

  3. I am a prickly so it's been quite an education trying to learn to be really touchy and physical with my kids. It's never been a problem for babies and toddlers, but once they reach school age it seems to change. I heard somewhere that you should give each child a bug hug and say "I love you" at least once a day. SO I make sure I do that.

    I have one child who is super touchy and physical and it drives me bonkers. She just can't get enough contact. But I've learned to just deal with it since I know it send the love messages to her. But man, I have to force myself sometimes!

  4. What a lovely post - and such clever and resonant metaphors.

    Neither of my boys is a big cuddler. The only time they really like to sit still and snuggle is when we're reading or when they're sick. Needless to say, I prefer the former!

  5. I think this is the way that Joseph and Nathan are the most different. Nathan is a cuddler through and through (and he knows it bugs me a bit and does it all the more just to bug me) Glad you found a way to help him stop tantrums.

  6. Awwww, I love that the cuddling is taming the tornado. Sweet. One of my boys didn't become a cuddler until high school, believe it or not./ Isn't it usually the opposite??

  7. I found you via Christine at Coffees and Commutes, when you participated in my Won't You Be My Neighbor series last week (for which I was absent, or I would have stopped by sooner!). I'm looking forward to getting to know your large family and your entertaining writing!

  8. Love this post Charlotte! My oldest two are like that in ways. Emma becomes a terror if not cuddled regularly, and Becca gets surly but she won't seek out contact and instead needs it to be offered. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Great post! I'll have to try this out on my just-turned-two toddler. I never would have thought of it.

  10. Loved it Charlotte! So well written.

    And now I understand your "Joseph" comment about MY Joseph. Maybe it's the name? Cause wow, do they ever sound like the same kid. =)

  11. Neither of my kids cuddle. I'm sure they are destined to be emotional flatliners, like their father. As attached as Tyler is, you'd think he'd want to at least cuddle sometimes.

  12. Oh I love how you described him in the end there. I have one of those and I just came to that same realization. If I start her day with a nice, long, tight hug, things go so much smoother.
    I love Joseph's hugs...they are intense and validating.

  13. For my boy it isn't about the cuddling but about eating. The Hubs and I are eaters. The girls- they're eaters too. We LIKE to eat and we NEVER forget to notice if we're hungry.

    Somehow through an odd quirk of genetics, we managed to produce a boy that does not care about food nor does he notice any hunger signs. He gets over-hungry then he gets MEAN and awful. It took me a long time to realize the terrible behavior was because he was totally hungry. The two seemed disconnected. Now that I've figured it out (because I'm SLOW like that), I try and make sure I don't let him get too hungry.

    My kids are all cuddlers as is their Dad. I'm more of a 'quit hanging on me' so they're all having to train ME. I am learning on that score.

  14. As always your writing paints such a clear picture. You are so good at describing how things are. Bravo!

    I'm a cuddler by nature and my oldest son is too, perhaps that's because we share the same birthday and are both cancer's. At any rate, it makes it easy for me to meet his needs because I understand them. It's not always so easy as you say here, when you are raising such a diverse group of individuals as you are. It must have felt so good when you finally figured the little guy out. I hope it keeps working for you guys because it really is a nice solution!

  15. Oh, Charlotte. I don't know how I missed this yesterday, but I am so glad I read it today. This post was a perfect mixture of lighthearted banter and serious reflection.

    My little Emmy sounds a lot like Joseph. She likes cuddles only for brief instances. We must read her to know exactly what she needs at a given moment.

  16. My 5 year old, (the one that is an angel 99.9% of the time) has started throwing MASSIVE tantrums. I am still in the experimental stage with him though. I might just try your idea.

  17. This was amazing to read, Charlotte, because, of course, the answer you sought was not the answer you would have thought of yourself.

    We're a cuddly family, even the gigantic 14-year-old wants to lay on me and I'm pretty sure he weighs more than me! But I have to remember, he's still young. 14 is young!

  18. I found Joseph to be a great hug. He is such a sweet kid one you can't help but love. Glad you found something that helped him.

  19. I really identify with jennie w. I grew up without much affection, so when I became a parent I determined to be affectionate with my children. The older they are, the more unnatural it feels. It creeps me out when my eleven-yr-old strokes my arm, but I know it's a signal that she wants physical touch too. So I force myself to initiate cuddling with my big kids and generally feel at ease within a few minutes.

    My little guy used to be a cuddler but is now too busy to sit still in my lap while I read to him. So I've found that scooping him up for a spin or hooking under his arms for a swing through my legs are great alternatives. Touching is the important thing, and he usually returns the affection with a hug before he runs off to bury something else in the heat vent.

  20. I love this. Your writing is fantastic by the way, and I wouldn't change the dragons and tornadoes in my house either!

  21. What a sweet post. I too often compare my kids and need to be reminded that they are so different. You obviously have it down. You are wise.

  22. It is so refreshing to see somebody refer to their energetic child in a positive way. My oldest is a "tornado personified" and I wouldn't change him for anything... but I'll be darned, everybody around me wants him to be somebody else (grandma included!)

    Great post!