I Was a Bad Kid with a Good Heart

Written by Jill Pond


If you had asked my opinion twenty years ago I would have blurted out some colorful but mostly accurate descriptors. It seemed like one big drag to me. I knew what a pain in the neck I had been for my parents and I was pretty sure there was a fat package from Karma with my name on it, just waiting to be claimed.

I was a Spirited Child. My presence was dreaded by neighborhood moms and I was banned from the invite list of many a slumber party. Most teachers were baffled by my inability to pay attention. One even asked my third grade self, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

To say I was Spirited was a nice euphemism for ‘nightmare child’: stubborn, untrustworthy, rambunctious and difficult.

My baseline disposition was shaky; I was prone to depression, mean streaks and deceit. No one really trusted me. I treated my friends poorly and my older sister avoided me like the plague. At a very young age, I was quite aware of the situation at hand; I knew I was problematic. I was not diagnosed with anything, but I clearly had some issues that were beyond normal.

My parents didn’t know what to do with me. They were frustrated, disappointed, angry and confused. They loved me, but I walked around with a world of shame on my shoulders. I couldn’t separate myself from the situation; I was Bad and I couldn’t help it. Their love couldn’t wash away the growing conviction that I was a mistake and didn’t belong in this world.

My adolescent and teen years weren’t much better. I shoplifted, drank too much and lied about what I was doing. I was compelled to act out, as I had zero impulse control. I knew I was Bad. Addiction swallowed me up in my early twenties. After getting into recovery from alcoholism and bulimia, I worked hard to be Good. That was 14 years ago and here I am, 39, married with kids in a life I never imagined. Despite all of my Goodness, I can’t ditch the greasy residue of that three letter word that follows me from one year to the next.


The old tapes from my younger years have never stopped haunting me. I want to let the Bad go; I want it gone, but it’s just not that easy. As a full-fledged grown up, I’ve tried to collect, create and manifest proof of my Goodness. Family and friends love me. I am trustworthy and honest. I’ve managed to fully participate in raising two little girls. My heart is a good heart, it just took a long time to develop.

Proof, right?

My youngest child might just be the most compelling evidence to date. Her heart is just like mine, only bigger. She is a mirror for me in many ways and has helped me gain new perspective about what it means to be Good.

This child of mine is sweet. She is funny and has a thoughtful soul, but she lies, cheats and steals. She is sneaky as all get out and has a terrible mean streak. She is a sensitive little creature and it’s fascinating to watch the disconnect between her big heart and her mean ways. Observing this dichotomy triggered a massive Oprah Ah-ha moment that has dented and poked holes in my flawed beliefs about myself.

She makes bad choices. She has questionable behavior. She can be hurtful.

Her actions aren’t always good, but she is good.

I love her. I love her so much and she is Good. If she is Good, then I am Good.

Me and my girl are two peas in a pod, overwhelmed by the world and its inhabitants. Hearts that don’t feel safe must work hard to feel grounded, tethered and connected. Strong hearts desire intense connection which can allow for their owners to feel burnt and slain by each perceived rejection. We are highly sensitive people who adapt the best way we can, protecting and shielding our hearts in ways that don’t make sense to us or those around us.

When I’m close to my girl, the thing I feel most is Love. The energy that pours from her body is warm and cozy, inviting me in. She’s journeyed five times around the sun, untouched by Bad and she has no shame. She is a lesson to me; she is my proof that one can be a pain in the ass or dabble in naughtiness, one can make many mistakes and still be worth loving. I never suspected that ‘healing’ would be a word I would use to describe parenthood, but my heart is better for my sweet and spirited child.

Jill PondAbout the Author: Jill is a seeker, writer and blurter of truth and has found her home in writing as it provides the space to do all three. Two little girls, a slew of animals and one husband have her heart all tied up in a tangled mass of crazy love.


About The Author


Mary Katherine is a southerner, born and raised. Growing up in Alabama, she developed an affinity for lightning bugs, sweet tea, playing guitar, and having strong opinions. She's happily married with a son (Nugget) and two fur babies. Fun facts: MK is a living kidney donor, speaks a little Thai, and has written two novels.


  1. I watched my “spirited” older brother get into some serious trouble, but he’s always had a good heart, too. My parents played such a huge role in the fact that he grew from a difficult child into a good man. <3

  2. I was the “spirited” child, my sister became docile. Both of us suffered. My sons are both spirited. Legitimately with ADHD and other issues. I know I am their mom so I can spare them the labels. They are not bad; they are amazing. They have things that some “easy” children do not, curiosity, passion, brilliance, creativity, strong wills. Challenging, yes, but I will not allow them to internalize that shit. Great post, Jill

  3. My middle child is my sneak and it’s as easy as breathing to just lie about something for her. I try to remind myself that she is the middle. Trying to find her place as not the baby anymore yet not the oldest. This reminds me to take a breath and try to be a bit more patient and understanding.

  4. Love this post, Jill! To this day I cannot fathom how my parents survived my childhood. I was spirited, rebellious, crafty and incredibly curious. Dangerous combo! Though, like you, these qualities don’t define who I am on the inside – though they greatly impact how I functioned (and continue to function now) in the outside world. I can already tell that my 2 yr old daughter is very much the same. Total payback time … and I wouldn’t have it any other way:)

  5. I’m so glad to hear how many other “Naughties” there are out there. I know we all struggle with our own stuff and I’m glad that our kids and their sweet love are strong medicine.

  6. I was the shy, quiet invisible child, watching in awe my spirited, stubborn brother. And yet, as a grown-up, he is the sweetest, gentlest man. I just figured all of that acting out was a cover for his tender heart . . .

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