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Are wild/rambunctious/slightly unruly kids born that way? (Or am I doing something wrong?)

Erin Zammett Ruddy

It’s been a rough time at the Ruddy house. The kids have morphed into the most concentrated versions of themselves, which is not a good thing. Alex and Nora are cute and sweet and polite and happy and funny and smart and a million other things that make me so proud to be their mom. But they are also WILD. I believe energetic or spirited is the PC way to say it, but the truth is, my kids are kind of kah-razy. Which amounts to my being embarrassed/exasperated/overwhelmed and just plain kah-razy much of the time lately.


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, they both wake up at about 97 percent speed and are up to 100 percent by the time they lift their heads from the pillow. Alex walked into our room this morning at 7:20. This is a direct quote from him: “I don’t know what a fly boat is. What is a fly boat, mom? Dad, do you know what a fly boat is? Is it winter today? Can we stop by the Gonzos so I can say hi to my cousin Andrew?” I hadn’t even opened my eyes yet. The nonstop interrogation—it goes on all day— is not what bothers me, it’s the nonstop everything else that I’m finding hard to handle.


When I picked Alex up from preschool yesterday, he was sitting at a table with a bunch of other kids. When he saw me, he made a very dramatic exit: “Sorry guys, I have to go. It’s time. Sorry, I just have to leave now…” And as he walked from the table to me, he made a point of touching kids or stuff or banging into chairs on purpose or whatever he could do that just screamed, this kid is a handful. And he is. I asked the teachers how he did during the day and they looked at each other, then said, “he’s got a lot of energy.” Again, the PC way to say, your kid is a giant pain in the ass. My response: “I know, I’m so sorry. And my 20-month-old daughter is worse. My husband and I have been wondering where they came from.”


Nora was eating macaroni and peas last night while the boys were outside playing football. I got up from the table to ask them a question and when I turned back around, Nora had picked up the bowl and had it pressed up against her face making crazy animal eating sounds. “I funny Mommy, I funny Mommy” she kept saying. I took the bowl away, obviously, but where did she learn that? Alex never even did that. See what I mean about being born that way? In the bath, Nora was on her back and started gargling with the bathwater. I told her to stop and she said—in gargle voice—“No mom.” This of course made her laugh so she kept doing it, then said, “I drink poopie mommy.” (There was no poopie in the tub, but apparently Nick had told her if she puts the water in her mouth this is what happens…).


She is also tough as nails, has no fear and tests every single boundary we set for her. When I pick her up from school, she hugs me for a minute, then gets down and bolts down the hallway peeking into classrooms and touching everything just like her brother. Alex has also been running away from me—out of his room and down the hallway—while I talk to his teacher after school. It’s mortifying and I want to scream at him to come back or grab him by the backpack and drag him back or give him a time out right there but I don’t want to make a scene so I just go after him and then reprimand him in the car. Loudly. Every single day.


The ride home is no better. Alex has picked up the word stupid from somewhere (his cousin Andrew) and I can’t stand it, which he knows. Yesterday on the way home from school he was saying it (immediately followed by, “oops, sorry mom!”) and then Nora was telling him not to say it, “Don’t say stupid Ali. Don’t say stupid Ali” so he came up with a solution. “Mom, I’m just going to say stoop. Like, I want to sit on the front stoop.” Ugh. He’s smart, but he mostly uses his smarts for evil. Another example: Andrew was over the other day and we were cleaning up and he didn’t want to. He asked me if he could just go to time out instead of helping and I said no. Alex offered this sage advice: “Andrew, if you want to go to time out, just say the F word.”


They stand on things, they jump down stairs, they touch everything, they bubble their milk, they scream and think it’s funny, and don’t even get me started on airplane behavior. Or restaurants (Alex is capable of eating out now; Nora is not). Both kids sit on the arms of the couches and think it’s fun to roll off and hit the ground (they try to anyway, until we make them sit like normal kids). What possesses a child to do that? Last night when it was time for bed (promptly at 7:15 after the evening we’d had), Nora and I came down to say goodnight to the boys and Nora dove out of my arms and ran and body slammed Alex. They wrestled for a sec, then she bear hugged him while she had him pinned and said “I love you Ali.” Nick and I looked at each, smiled and rolled our eyes.


I feel like we are good parents in many ways. My kids eat great, they sleep great, they communicate incredibly well. But when it comes to their rambunctious behavior I feel like we’re failing somehow. Believe me, we discipline. Some days are just a blur of time outs and 1-2-3s and “if you don’t give that back to her right now there will be no _________(fill in the blank with something sweet).” They know what they’re doing is not acceptable and yet.... Making matters worse is that every other kid we know seems to be better behaved than ours. Which I’m hoping isn’t the case but these days I’m just not sure.


Do you have super well-behaved kids or do you occasionally ask yourself how these wild animals got into your home? Does the wild animal-ness ever make you feel like you’re failing? Any tips for reeling in the kah-razy?