Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Failing Her

My six year old is a planner. Actually, that's an understatement. Her very favorite thing to do is to plan and arrange a complex, gigantic event with as many people as possible involved. She's a hard worker too...she's not just a bossy kid, she does as much work as possible to see her plan through. When she has a baby-sitter, she creates a check-in table, name tags, and a night full of activities. When she plays school with the three-year-old she has homework, lesson plans, parent-teacher conferences, test scores, and report cards. It's not difficult to imagine her twenty years from now tossing her heavy curtain of hair over her shoulder, raising a fist and shouting into a megaphone at a huge political protest. Someday she'll be unstoppable.

But today she's six. And when she comes to me and plunks down her entry in a charm bracelet contest that took place at her imaginary school, with every charm idea illustrated and scored by a panel of judges, and informs me that I need to get her a prize because she beat "all of the other" entries...I just sigh. And tell her that I can't.

"What?" I asked impatiently. "Do you want me to drive to Target and buy you a bracelet? I'm not doing that. I'm already in my pajamas."

"Give me an old one!" she said.

"I don't have an old one," I retorted. "You girls have broken all of my old ones."

"I'll take a broken one!" she said. "Give me a broken necklace. I'll tie it around my wrist."

"No," I replied.

"Well, give me some yarn! Just some yarn! I'll pretend!" she cried. I wavered, and then she said, "You can attach this little horse to it as a charm."

"No," I sighed. And she huffs off to her next plan. I lean against the counter and sigh. It's been a long day - I have a demanding job feeding the needs of kids and adults. It's work that is, at times, emotionally draining. I also have three kids who need me intensely to listen, to help, to find, to encourage. By the time she runs up to me with her next plan, I'm just too tired.

I feel like she could do amazing things if I could just give her a boost...but I'm so tired that I can't give her the leg up. When I'm with my son, I feel like I'm doing okay...all he wants is for me to be his audience, and to give him hugs. With the three year old, she's content with snuggles and stories. But the six-year-old wants so much more.

Someday I hope I can live up to her potential.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Find Your Tribe

I've heard the phrase "find your tribe," and to be honest, I always found it irritating. It seemed cutesy, for one thing, and for another thing it's the least helpful advice ever. It's like, "Feeling sick? Stop being ill!" or "Tired of being poor? Just have more money." Exhortations for people to "find their tribe" seemed useless without an accompanying how-to manual. 

I still don't have that manual...however, slowly but surely, I feel like I'm collecting a group of people who "get it" as far as this parenting-outlier-kids thing is concerned. And those relationships are worth cultivating, and those people are worth appreciating, because having people who get it is just awesome.

Today a mom friend of mine chaperoned P's field trip to the art museum. Unfortunately he had a big meltdown in the middle of the museum and it took both this mom and the teacher to calm him down. She texted me about it and then emailed me the blow-by-blow. I was mortified that he'd have a meltdown on a field trip like that, and my mind immediately jumped to what the teachers must have said, what the kids must have said, P being banned from all field trips (hello, anxiety disorder!)...I was crushed. C was sick so instead of receiving this news at work I was at home. I settled C onto the couch with a couple episodes of a cartoon and, unable to settle my mind, I dropped onto the other end of the couch and slept.

I dozed until the cartoon was over, and then I decided to face up to it. I emailed her back, saying how embarrassing that was, how P had made progress in managing his emotions but still lost control of himself sometimes, and thanking her for working with him. I was shocked when I got this back:

Not at all embarassing.  I just felt badly that he found himself in that situation and my efforts failed to calm him.  On what I hope is a positive note, the other students didn't seem to think anything of it. I'm glad you like the pictures and really hope P enjoyed the trip! 

I could almost feel the tension roll off of me. I can't express what it means when someone sees the kids at their lowest, the points where they struggle the most, and get it. P is slowly finding his place, and I'm finding mine.