I probably have half a dozen posts I’ve started that remain unfinished. I haven’t been able to commit to any one of them. I’m guessing there will come a time when they will become relevant again and I can pick up with renewed insight and energy around them, but at this time a heightened sense of urgency is pulsing through my veins to write about my experience as a parent. Moving to Maine was in great part due to the wholesome style of living I wanted to give my children. The orchard, as I’ve said before, personified every reason I wanted to live here. Brilliant stars at night free from the lights of a big city, small hometown values, people that are connected to each other and the earth with nature abounding everywhere. My purpose has focused on my children’s needs above all others.
My story starts with the birth of my first child. My pregnancy was picture perfect as I basked in the glow of anticipation of a first time mother. It was the happiest time in my life where I felt in perfect harmony with my body, mind, and spirit. My son was full term with no indications of distress during the labor; the birth seemed to go well until the point where he was to take his first breath. He didn’t cry. I questioned, “Isn’t he supposed to be crying?” The delivery nurses did what they could to clear his breathing passages, but called in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for support. He was placed in the NICU where I had no say in his treatment. He was put on a breathing apparatus the night he was born and within a few hours was taken off because he was screaming. They figured if he could scream, he could breathe. After a short stay in the NICU, we were sent home with our son and a bidding of farewell from one of the nurses that went something like, “Good luck with this one!” I was taken back and a little angry. How could someone say that? He just needs his mother, once he’s home with me he’ll be fine. Well, it wasn’t fine. He screamed from then on out. Screamed, mind you, not cry. He didn’t sleep or nap and neither did I… for the next 9 months. I brought him to every medical doctor trying to understand what could be wrong, only to have everyone say there wasn’t anything they could find medically wrong with him. A gastroenterologist said at 11 weeks, that his problems were “behavioral.” I have a behavioral 11 week old?! At six months the pediatric cardiologist “diagnosed” him with ADHD. Teachers have subtly questioned me, making the assumption that I must be doing something that has allowed for a challenging personality. This has been since birth and it’s a story I have been carrying around with me like a badge of courage. But I don’t think that story line is my purpose or path and I don’t want it to be.
I have been guided to get off the merry-go-round of action and reaction, to look beyond the behaviors to find the hurt child that is crying out because he feels so deeply and doesn’t understand the big feelings he is experiencing. In addition, I have to look at the bigger picture to understand how I play a part in all of it. I believe children come into our life for a reason and have the ability to highlight long buried beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and emotions with the higher purpose of clearing them out, first by bringing them to the surface. It can be a difficult process, no doubt, but if you pay attention to the signs that are presented, it can be less painful. The signs become evermore loud and present when we are not in tune with them. Albert Einstein is credited with defining insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” When a situation plays itself out over and over again, it’s a clear sign that the current way of dealing with it isn’t working and needs to change. I am reminded:
You can’t change what’s going on around you until you start changing what’s going on within you.
I don’t have all the answers. I won’t pretend that I do. And I won’t pretend that I could be a perfect parent that can keep it together all of the time. But there are resources that are helping me navigate a new path and a new story. Aha! Parenting is one such resource that recently featured an article with tips and advice for anger inducing situations with your child. Here, one recommendation is to take an adult “time out” to give you time to respond appropriately, rather than instinctively, in combination with a mantra like:
- “He’s acting out because he needs my help with his big feelings.”
- “Only love today.”
- “When my child is at her worst, she needs me at my best.”
Another resource I was guided to and has helped wonderfully (when I remember to use it!) are the steps in 1-2-3 Magic. Here, you clearly define your expectations and consequences. The warnings 1-2 and resulting consequence after #3, are purposely short to avoid the draw of dramatic conflict and heightened emotions.
All in all, I believe there are lessons to be learned from our children if we are willing to listen to them and the signs presented to us from our interactions. Children are meant to enhance our lives and there is nothing greater than experiencing that joy with them!