My three-year-old daughter isn’t like most other three-year-old girls. It really isn’t so much what she isn’t that sets her apart, but what she is.
She’s really, REALLY energetic. People often say she’s like a little boy. (Don’t get me started on gender stereotypes.)
She’s impulsive to the max. We can’t turn our heads for a second during swim lessons because she’ll jump in the water yelling, “CANNONBALL!” (I actually saw the first sign of hesitation in the water from her today, and that was after she sucked in about a gallon of water.)
She has to apologize A LOT. And she serves time out sentences A LOT. She’s constantly acting before she thinks. She yells, hits, or takes something without thinking, and then immediately recognizes what she did wrong.
She has no fear of being weird. She dances, sings, does flips, whatever tickles her fancy at the moment, and it doesn’t matter who’s around.
She also has no fear of getting hurt (except for what I saw today FOR THE FIRST TIME). When she was two, she had to get a staple in the back of her head because she was rough housing with an uncle and hit her head on the coffee table. When she was three, she had to get stitches in her forehead because she was sack racing with a pillowcase and tripped.
She’s physically gifted. Like, I can’t even think of what else to call it. On her first birthday, in the middle of her party, I turned around to find her rock climbing the brick wall inside our house (it has brick pegs that stick out every so often). Now, at three years old, she can do things on the bars in gymnastics that most of her peers can’t. She walked early, ran early, and crawled like a frog (literally) because she was too impatient to learn how to do it correctly.
She could swing by herself just after she turned two. And she swings HIGH. She will literally swing for an hour straight at the park, no one pushing her, no one talking to her, just completely off in her own little world, happy as a clam.
She’s one of the most amazing little kids I’ve ever met. Maybe I just think that because she’s mine, but other people are fascinated by her, too.
So when she had a complete breakdown last night, I wanted to break down and cry with her.
Here’s what happened:
Her dad is trying to put her and her older sister to bed. It’s past bed time, everyone is exhausted, and dad’s already been in their room for about thirty minutes. Everyone is over it.
So, as a last ditch effort, my husband says, “Come on, girls. We’re going to lay in my bed, and you’re going to GO. TO. SLEEP.”
They were excited because laying in mom and dad’s bed is a treat so they ran to their spots and snuggled right up. But about thirty seconds into it, my three-year-old started her usual routine.
I heard, “Stop kicking your sister, Badynn.”
And then I heard, “Stop wiggling, Badynn.”
“Lay down, Badynn.”
“Be quiet, Badynn.”
“Stop singing, Badynn.”
This went on for about fifteen more minutes, and then things finally got quiet. Just when I started to think everyone had fallen asleep, I heard my husband yelp and then groan in pain.
“OUCH, Badynn!” he said, a little harsher than usual. “That really hurt. You need to lay down and GO. TO. SLEEP. instead of jumping on Daddy. That really hurt.”
There was a five-second pause … and then she was bawling.
My husband pulled her close, knowing he had snapped at her in a way that she’s not used to, and told her he was sorry. But the damage was done. She heard in his voice that she was a nuisance, and her little brain ran with it.
After several minutes of crying, she left the bed and came to find me in the living room.
I scooped her up and said, “It’s okay, baby. You’re not in trouble.”
“I make everybody’s life WORSE!” she wailed to me.
And I cannot tell you how hard my heart hit the floor beneath me. I didn’t want to give in to a victim mentality in my baby, but I have NEVER heard remorse like that in her voice before. She could barely gasp for air she was crying so hard.
I said, “No, no, no. That’s not true. You do not make anyone’s life worse, and you are NOT in trouble. You just made a bad choice. That’s okay. You’re not in trouble.”
She said, “Yes, I do. I make everyone’s life worse. I keeped kicking sissy, and I keeped rolling around, and I didn’t go to sleep. I tried to be a good girl, but I maked everyone life WORSE.”
Oh, it was awful, guys. I hated it. It was like hearing a confession of exactly what’s been going on in her head for the last three and a half (almost four) years.
She wants to be good, but she just can’t control her impulses all the time.
I know what you’re thinking. She’s three. All three year olds are impulsive.
That’s very true, but I’ve raised another little girl too and had so many kids in daycare. I know what three-year-old boys AND girls act like. She acts like a kid (boy or girl) who is more impulsive and more energetic than most.
It was like a lightbulb went off in my brain.
I thought, “I bet she has ADHD.” And it sort of all made sense after that.
Now, I feel no need to put my child in a box, and I could be completely wrong. Maybe she’ll outgrow these tendencies, maybe she’s just a little more zesty than other kids, or maybe she’s completely typical and I’m just overthinking things.
But if someone else came to me and told me those things about their child, I’d think to myself, “That sweet little kiddo has a unique brain. And I bet it’s ADHD related.”
You see, the difference is that girls are almost NEVER diagnosed with ADHD. Girls who have ADHD tend to suffer from the more inattentive version and the less hyperactive version, which keeps them from being “noticed,” so to speak.
And even with my Badynn, I know if I spoke to a doctor about it, they would probably mention her age. And then when I mentioned it again a few years later, they would be hesitant to see that in a girl. My guess is they would believe (perhaps without saying it) that her behaviors are due to parenting issues.
I read in an article once that girls who have ADHD but go undiagnosed throughout their formative years have a significantly higher risk of self harm and suicide than those who receive a diagnosis at an early age.
Now, that changes your perspective about “people are so interested in finding a label for their kid,” doesn’t it?
I don’t know what we’ll do about our little babe and her uniqueness, but I think I’ll start to change the way we work with her and see how that goes. Maybe I’ll talk to her doctor about it at her next checkup, maybe the behaviors will start to go away on their own.
But one thing is for sure, I’ll keep documenting our journey so that other parents who might have “unique” little girls can learn from our experience.
Happy parenting, guys.