I have had the great pleasure of being virtually introduced to Lee Coello of Becoming Unencumbered and would like to introduce her to you all. In some of her own words, Lee is: A homeschooling mother to three children, wife to a man from the Island of Enchantment, (moderate) minimalist, organized, nomadic fitness guru. Or…Wonderwoman.
My hope is that Lee’s wonderful contributions to Our Spirited Life will help fill the gap that my lack of experience might create, still being new to this Mamabear thing. Her viewpoints are powerful, insightful and relatable. I received Lee’s post earlier this evening, and as I read, tears ran down my cheeks. These beautifully written words had come to me at the most perfect time. I hope they can do the same for you.
I have a son who recently turned nine. He is a mixed bag of energy and personality that once bewildered me, but I now just call “kid-ness with an extra dose of boy”. There are days when I feel like I am stuck in a cycle of behaviors with him that should have long since been dealt with. Yet, on most days I am fascinated by who he is and overcome with surprised joy to observe his blossoming development. Never the less, our parent-child journey has been one of learning who we both are and how to combine those forces to meet the challenges he has sometimes presented.
His toddler years involved many doctors and therapists as I searched to understand him better. In the end, there was no clear label for my son and I am now thankful for that. That means his only label is his name and he is solely defined by who he chooses to be. A way of being I hope he never loses.
So one would think I have parenting advice spewing out of me on how to raise boys or ‘spirited kids’ or …, but I don’t. Because all parenting is a series of individual moments on a journey taken with you and that specific child. You can accumulate tips and better coping skills. Or become more adept and practiced in handling certain situations, but when you step back you realize every time, just as every child, is unique. What worked for me might implode for you. What was revealed to me may not ever cross your radar. So, if I truly had any parenting advice to share, which I generally resist doing, it would be the following excerpts from my life and trials:
1. Once, in delivering his opinion on my son, a neurologist said to me, “By the time he is five you will realize you don’t think about this much any more. By the time he is seven you will start to forget why you came to me. By the time he is nine you will struggle to remember what the problem was in the first place.” Those are the kindest, truest and most powerful parenting words I have ever received. Not only in that moment did it lift a huge pressure of worry off my heart, it also gave me great wisdom about how I should tailor my parenting style. Basically, he taught me that it all passes. All the moments pass; whether they are good or bad. Remember this during the bad ones and hold tight to the good ones.
2. Not knowing what to do is not really being helpless. We are not expected to know all or be everything to our children, but instead to be wise enough to know what we lack and seek out, to the best of our abilities, what they need. Seeking answers and learning along the way is what makes you a powerful parent.
3. Even if you had the most Disney-esque childhood, your child will have something to teach you about yourself and push you to grow.
4. It’s all about perspective. You can see it as downright serious or you can see it with humor. You can see it as danger or see it as exploration. The perspective you apply will influence your approach, and tell your children much about how they too should regard themselves and the world.
5. What is appropriate is not fixed in stone. For example, some children listen better when they don’t have to look at you. When they seem to be off in their own world, they are simply creating a quiet mental space to ingest and process your words clearly. So, go for what works, not just what presents best.
6. Energetic and hyper are NOT the same thing, contrary to what society seems to believe. The more I look around at our growing society of nature-limited, over sheltered, weight gaining children today I am fine with people labeling my son as hyperactive as he runs himself ragged. What they don’t see is he puts the same full-on energy into reading books as he does charging his bike down a steep hill. I have often said that boys like mine were made for a different time. A time when we needed boys to become men who took on the fight, hunted the animal up-close with a spear and believed so confidently in their abilities, it appeared they foolishly left fear behind. We still need those boys and we still want those men. That energy is useful, it just needs an outlet that society keeps closing off.
7. Explanations are often required. Only one of my three children are what one would call an easy-going and cooperative personality. The other two need more information before they can move forward. This can get frustrating when you want a quick outcome, but it saves time in the end because you avoid stalls or meltdowns later. It’s all about respecting the needs of the unit, not just pushing my own agenda.
8. Your child is not about a label, but about who they are. Nor will your parenting style be fully defined by a label. Labels provide a context but don’t fill in all the blanks. They give you a guide, but can’t tell you everything about your experience along the journey. Only dealing with who or what your child presents can do that. I once spent an entire summer helping my son learn to tolerate soft, juicy textures in his mouth. Everyday he ate one tiny cube of a peach. By the end, he would accept eating fruits like peaches, grapes and plums as long as they weren’t very ripe. He overcame a sensory battle and I learned to deal with what is front of me in small bits. Worrying about the big ‘what ifs’ and ‘what about thats’, or having a label for why he wouldn’t eat the fruit would not have changed or really helped him chew, process the texture or swallow. All that mattered or changed anything was to take on that small situation before moving on to the next.
9. That what you find to be a problem is usually just a lack of understanding. My son, and other children, confound me on a regular basis. “What were they thinking?” repeats regularly on my mental playlist. And then when I step back, take a deep breath and listen to their reasoning or see it with their logic, I get it (sometimes). My point is, try to understand your kids and meet them where they are at. When you do that you learn ….
10. That when you accept what is, it all makes so. much. sense. There is no more wondering, reconfiguring or altering required. It is what it is and you can move on and be present with that information.
Parenting is a life-long practical exam and no-one has the answer key. In little and big moments you will get feedback on your results; sometimes great or disappointing, heart bursting or bittersweet. What you know today, or who your child seems to be is not the whole story. Take it all for what it is- an endorsement of life wrapped in the amazing and precious package of your child. Treasure it all and just keep going.