where wildly different is perfectly normal
Raising complex kids is hard
Raising complex kids is hard

Raising complex kids is hard

Raising complex kids is hardAs I obviously have an altar for the Goddess of All Obviousness, permit me to also acknowledge the following:

  1. Water is wet.
  2. Sky is blue.
  3. Sun is bright.

Deep breath…Ommmm…erm…Duhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..

I decided a few months ago to refer my sons as complex, not challenging. While both are true, complex has far fewer negative connotations. They are both complex 3000 piece puzzles with the same repeating pebble image on both sides with one side’s image turned a quarter turn. You have 18 years. Good luck. Care for a drink?

These two boys of mine are hard. A came out of the womb as Advanced Parenting (prerequisite: pregnancy), J as remedial Advanced Parenting (prerequisite: screwing up Advanced Parenting the first time). I have had so many moments of despair, when I have cried to the heavens, wondering why I thought having children was a good idea. Why I thought being a stay at home mom was a good idea. Why I thought getting married was a good idea. I could have been living in Washington, D.C. playing in a military band. The road(s) not taken taunt me in my darkest moments.

And then the Goddess of All Obviousness takes her rolled up Tome of All Things Obvious (it’s thick, tiny print, a gazillion see-through pages, gilded edges) and smacks me across the nose with it. Sometimes I hear her yell “Bad Jen!,” and I cower in a corner. Obviously I was meant to get married, be a stay at home mom and have these complex boys, or I would be living in Washington, D.C., playing in a military band. Obviously the road not taken wasn’t taken for a reason.

Knowing all this still doesn’t make raising these complex boys any easier. Nine years after our simple life blew up in a blaze of sleepless nights welcoming A to our lives, and six years after adding fuel to the fire bringing home J, we still find ourselves weighing the smallest decision with the intensity of say, peace in the Middle East. What other families do without thinking and with great joy is great cause for discussion, conversation, and dialogue. A weekend ski trip? We have to weigh the length of the drive, the temperature up there, the novelty of skiing, the probable overstimulation (through crowds, temperature, lack of control on skis), and the likely probable inevitable desire to leave once we make it up there vs. our ability to cope with all that. Our town is having a campout in the new community park in a few weeks. No.Way. Sleeping in a tent, crowds, novel situation, change in routine vs. not allowed to have alcohol in a public park…ain’t gonna happen. I think that’s what makes summer so difficult for me. Tom is working all day, the boys start to get on each others nerves, and taking them on an outing solo overwhelms me to the point of throwing them on the Legos and praying for quiet. Add to that A’s new habit of seeing something interesting and darting off, and you can see why I eye the duct tape on an hourly basis.

My “stay ahead of the boys” treadmill is starting to stick and sputter. Coping ability is wearing thin. So I hope, dear Goddess of All Obviousness, that you can put in a good word for me to Dude of Advanced Parenting Skills. Because obviously, I need some help here. These complex kids are hard.



  1. I’m sure that Winston Churchill’s mother could relate 110%. Gain strength in knowing that others relate, too!

    These are the kids that will change the world…not vice-versa!

    Living with giftedness is such a mixed bag, isn’t it? Embrace it all…how lucky your boys are to have found their way into YOUR life!

    Wendy @Kidlutions

  2. Lisa Conrad

    No platitudes and no attitudes … I’m here to say it’s gonna get better. No, it’s gonna be fantastic! All the struggles now will pay off in the future. Within a few short years, you’ll have forgotten all about these days.
    The time will come when you will be able to actually sit down and have a conversation with two brilliant young men about things that really matter. Many, many blessings await you as the mother of gifted children (especially the 2E’s). So, count some of those blessings now and consider the alternative – a child whose only aspirations involve where to buy the next fix or how to scam someone into parting with their life’s savings.
    Your sons are the by-product of two intelligent people who love them and have the ability to provide for them. There are over a billion children in this world who aren’t so lucky.
    So, the next time you wonder … why me? Sit back and smile … and give thanks. 🙂

  3. Ya Jen… you know that book.. the one called ‘Explosive Kids…?’ well, I was an ‘Explosive Parent’.. today.. any books for us complex parents out there? When trying to do even one thing, something very simple, can be such a battle, and leave one drained of energy… I’m to bed to an early battle again on the moro.. Sorry to dump!!

    I really like the way you write Jen… and love this post too!! Any sign of that book yet??;-D

  4. Theresa

    I wish I could say that I have been there and that it gets better, but I really haven’t been where you are. I think I just had annoying young kids. If kids are basically kids, then your two will become less annoying, just like mine did. Or maybe I just lost my marbles and haven’t figured that out yet…hmmm.

  5. I can relate.

    I don’t have 2 highly complex, active boys, I have 3 highly complex, highly emotional girls.

    As New-Agey as it may sound, what really helps the highly complex parent is cultivating mindfulness. You can use these principles anywhere, and preferable to self-medicating with alcohol.


    Mindfulness can help you stretch out time…so to speak…reduce anxiety and calm your emotions in the midst of those storms.

    Many, MANY complex individuals do well with cultivating mindfulness.

    I like Jim Hopper’s website because it seems to put mindfulness in a way that is really sensible and appealing.

    Good Luck

  6. Lori

    but, don’t you also revell in the unconventional child! i know i love that mine don’t necessarily follow the herd. they have their own ideas, own methods — sometimes much better than their peers and teachers — and me!! i, honestly can’t wait to see what great and amazing things my child adds to this world as he grows up. the world needs square pegs! now more than ever! dontcha think?

Whaddya think?

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