Friday, February 24, 2012

I passed?

You know how parents or caretakers always say things like, “I thought I was going to be the teacher, but I think I am the one who ended up learning the most!” blah, blah, blah…? And it’s not that we don’t believe you, but it’s not as much about being taught, as it is a frame of mind, or being open to learning things from a demanding situation. I mean, it’s not like your newborn baby is actually going to pull out a notepad and show you how to solve a math equation where pi is the integer or anything.

(also, I’m pretty sure my husband just stabbed himself with a pencil over my sadly misinformed attempt to make up a fictional math scenario.)

Caretaking or raising someone can teach us stuff about ourselves, about what we are capable of, about leaving behind the hectic world to be present in a situation, or to see the world like it’s new again. They teach us by example, and by requiring things from us no one else would.

This is the kind of learning I have been glad to partake in the last 6 1/2 years, and why I didn’t see last night coming.

Let’s set the stage.

First: me, standing on the stool peering into the forbidden treat cupboard to discover, once again, an entire package of cookies seems to have either consumed itself in one night, or been relocated to a 6 year old boy tummy in secrecy.

Second: 6 year old boy, hands on hip, mouth geared up for an onslaught of the injustices against him along the lines of “yeah, I CHOSE to [insert naughty behavior here] but you CHOOSE the consequence! And how am I supposed to know anyone loves me when you always CHOOSE to punish me?!” (true story)

My reaction when he gets super mouthy and tries to draw me into long theological discussions about his rights as a “human being” is usually to redirect him… to his room. One of the side effects of a super smart kid, and the approach we have taken to teach him emotional intelligence and self awareness, is now we have a highly emotional and articulate child who often wants to hold a room ransom with monologues about why anything he ever does, good or bad, has an explanation everyone has to listen too.

I tend to reevaluate my choices as a parent pretty much daily, even hourly on days when my brain hates me, but most of my parenting intuition comes from one thing I KNOW from my parenting experiences so far, and from growing up myself: You can not WILL another person to learn the things you know. You simply can not WILL a person to avoid the pain and mistakes that are so obvious to you, or even to SIT STILL. You can not will a person to sit still! And the more you try to enforce your knowledge and will on someone, make them SEE how you see, the more they feel misunderstood and also RIGHT about their own choices, since they are THEIRS. Some hard core molding, threatening and spanking will work when kids are young, but when the years of their impressionable youth expires and you missed the time to teach them to find coping skills within their own minds? At the end of the day, forcing a kid to BEHAVE is easier then teaching them to course correct, apologize, have retrospect, but it is a short term solution I think will cause a parent more work over the span of their lives.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve spanked (judge me all you want, when you are raising a strong fearless boy things happen that I’m not proud of, but that doesn’t make it the wrong choice either), spanking is not common here or a go to parenting skill by any means, but we don’t sit around talking about our feelings all day either. I’d rather be spanked! My kids just have to stick to the tolerable areas of squirrelly kid antics, or they will be “removed from civilized society” as we say while we march them to their rooms.

That’s probably why Russell talks so weird, because I think weird  :)

When Russell jumps into a monologue that is obviously a reaction to a consequence, or because he simply feels mad or crappy or sad and is not expressing that, but is lashing out at others, he is removed. We don’t have a specific time-out plan like the nannies on tv, but every member of this house with our high strung personalities, has a “cave space”. Cavemen can sulk and emote in their caves, contributing members of society are welcome down by the watering hole.

Hmph, so much for keeping this short, but I find writing this very helpful since I’ve never really spelled it out like this. And last night, oh my gosh you guys, last night… I think the dance we’ve got going here is working.

So back to it; I’m on the stool, the kid is perched to react, and then? He sort of crumbled. It wasn’t rage or defensiveness or lying, he just dropped his arms and the sadness and disappointment was written all over his wonderful little body. He went up the stairs and I heard his door close softly. I just stood on the stool. I didn’t know what to do! My frustration gave way as he walked away and all I could think was “don’t screw this up.” You don’t want to teach someone that martyrdom and despair is how you get out of trouble, but you want to reward someone’s self awareness and also show them how to use this feeling today, to make better choices tomorrow.

A few minutes of letting him marinate in this emotion seemed fine, and then I quietly knocked on his door. I don’t even know how to write this next part because this moment is so sacred to me, but so important, so brilliant, I have to write it down even if I’m boring you to death.

He was cross legged on his floor, it’s so rare to see him sitting still, he raised his face to me and then dropped it as his chin began to tremble. I said nothing and sat down beside him. Overwhelmed, he put his head in his hands and said “I’m sorry mom, I’m sorry I ate the cookies you bought for our family. It’s like…” he paused then with big sad tears looked right in my face “…it’s like I’m a book and sometimes I just forget what page I’m on.”

It is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. I have never felt more understood by another human being. I have never heard a better analogy for the brilliance that is this whole stupid ADHD thing. I have never felt more validated for the complicated way I’m trying to carve out a different path for my family and how we express ourselves.

And I didn’t give this to him. He gave it to me. He taught me something so totally out of his own brain, so uniquely insightful and his

Jon came home, we put on a tv show and paused it so we could con the squirrels to climb up on our laps for a minute, and Jon told Russell when he feels lost, “mommy and daddy can be a like bookmarks so you don’t lose your page.”


I’m serious.

I know parenting is complicated, tedious, wonderful, blah, blah, but I really am the winner here and I’m grateful whatever tomorrow holds, no one can ever take yesterday away from me.

Perfectly imperfect and all mine.


Lorraine said...

Alissa. I'm SUPPOSED to be working on a very complicated spreadsheet and instead I have to figure out how to make it look like I'm not crying about my beautiful nephew who is a book. YOU ARE BLOWING MY COVER. Thanks. I needed to remember today how awesome my people are. I love you, love that kid. Give him a kiss from his old auntie.

Jon King said...

I assumed you would know more about pi seeing that you are both irrational :)

But I guess pi doesn't help you make pie and I like your pies, irrational or not.

Erin said...

I don't think I've ever even thought something that profound.

No one else could be his mother; no one else could have helped him get to these places. Nothing clever to say, just thanks for sharing.