Thursday, August 30, 2012

Identity Crisis

I might offend people here. I just don't think that our children's failures or successes are measured by how great of a parent we are. I see the social media posts about the Pre-Kindergarten gifted/genius programs that are apparently being offered (okay...I'm being a little bit facetious...but not entirely...) and just how proud the parents are of their kids. Proud or Responsible, I always wonder?  The same goes for my friends who have a child with special needs. There are some things flung at them that are downright intolerable. Things that other parents say that insinuate that their child is the way they are, because of something the parents have done. Unacceptable.

I had a very eye opening moment a little over two years ago, when I got Elijah's prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. I thought the world as I knew it was over. I was so down and so depressed and woke up everyday for awhile thinking that it was a bad dream that I would surely wake up from.  One day, the air cleared a little and I had a very simple thought: I. do. not. have. Down. syndrome. My baby will have it, but I personally, do not. It was like a cloud lifted and I realized that maybe Elijah's life will be harder. Maybe it won't be. But, either way- it's HIS life. Sure, I will have to do what I can to help him maximize his potential, as I will with Christian. But his life is his life and my life is my life.

His life is his life and My life is my life.

I don't want or need the "credit" when something goes remarkably well. It's not about me. I also don't take the low points as some direct reflection of bad parenting on my part. I think I do okay at the parenting thing. I'm consistent, I create schedule in our life, I am quick to laugh and joke, I show affection often and with fervor, I encourage kindness and consideration. But, I am so far from perfect. I have yelled, I have lost patience, I have said things that I wish I would have known better what to say. The good news is that I'm not absent- I don't leave my kids so I can get drunk in a bar or have my kids trying to raise each other because I'm unavailable. That stuff happens.

I have a good friend who had a pretty messed up childhood. And I mean, "pretty" is not the right word at all. She still has emotional scars and yet she is one of the most loving and supportive people I know. She runs marathons and pushes herself to be better, to do more. She worries about her future and whether or not she could be a good wife or a good mother...and if that is even possible. I know it IS possible for her and that she can have anything she sets her mind to.  This is not because of her parents. This is in spite of her parents.

So, I take the wins and the losses with a grain of salt. I will help my children become the most successful adults they can be, and that is going to look different for each of them. But, if Christian becomes a world renowned brain surgeon, it won't be my credit. It will be his credit. I can be a great parent and know that I am not the one who gets the credit.  Last week, I relived the story of Day Four in Kindergarten with Elijah's Child Development Services professional. I told her that after we got home from school, I gave Christian some quiet time to think about making better choices and while he was doing that, I made a behavior chart. Her face lit up, "You made a CHART??!!"  She said that I had just moved myself to the top 2% of all parents, and that in her line of work she has been encouraging charts for years. However, almost no one actually makes or does the chart.  We laughed about it, but then I realized, she's right. Not that I'm the greatest parent. But, that that is about all you can do: You can make a chart. Pretty much that's it. You make the chart, you encourage the chart, you stay consistent with your discipline. At the end of the day, though, your kid is still going to be your kid- perhaps the people pleasing type (like I was as a kid) who wants to do it all right, perhaps the perfectionist type, who never thinks they have it right, perhaps the highly creative type, who doesn't necessarily fit into the same box as everyone else. Who they are, is who they have always been. When  I look back at my kids- even as newborns, they were then, who they are now. Their essence was already there.

I find this liberating.

This week hasn't been the greatest week, but it wasn't bad. I celebrated a birthday and have had enough friends & family who have insisted on celebrating in some way, that it's becoming more like a birthday week. However, we also had to say goodbye to all of our in-home therapists that have been helping Elijah since he was 5 months old. There were tears for that this week, even though I know that we will be in touch with these amazing women. They have changed our lives for the better and we love them. Kindergarten has been rocky again this week. Last week was amazing- 2 trips for good behavior to the "treasure box", but today, the teacher sought me out again. She said, "I just want to let you know that I wrote a note to you today in Christian's agenda, because he had some trouble making good choices today. I'm letting you know, because he has hidden his agenda under his chair, because I don't think he wants you to see it."  Hmmm.
So, I see Christian, "Hey Buddy, let's go! Where's your backpack?"
He brings over empty backpack.
"Where's your lunchbox and agenda?"
"I don't know..."
"Well, let's look for it." (The teacher joins us in the classroom to "look".)
Christian pretends to look in all of the places it's not.
The teacher says, "Hey Christian, Is there anything under your chair?"
Christian picks up the lunchbox under the chair, "Here it is!"
I say, "Great! Now, where's your agenda?"
He continues to look in more places it's not.
The charade finally ends as the teacher points out that we can see the agenda sticking out from under the chair.
Christian hands it over to me with a sheepish look.
Apparently, his not good choices had something to do with "jumping on friends", "punching lunchboxes" and "tossing some toys when asked not to". Sigh. He sure is pushing the boundaries to see what he can get away with. And I'm left with my chart- which he loves, but even still it does not suddenly produce the world's most well-behaved child. So, we will try again tomorrow. There are continued rewards if he makes good choices and we had a long talk about asking himself, "Is this a good choice??" And there you have it, people. Nothin' left to do but ride the ride.

The upside of the ride this week was that we got a new backpack for Elijah so he can start his new program next week. They requested that he bring a backpack with a change of clothes, a snack, and some diapers. I looked for the smallest backpack I could find (in a pinch- no time for online searches and ordering) and purchased it. He won't actually wear the backpack I don't think and it will likely be bigger than he is, but I will be doing my best to get some pictures anyway. First day of "school" pictures-out on the front lawn, just like his big brother has, each year he has started some type of schooling. I'm looking forward to some pictures that will make me smile.

Then...there was this:

It was an amazing moment to watch my littlest one accomplish something he has wanted so badly. He has been trying to figure out that slide for a little while now and has been the happiest, most motivated toddler around in trying to figure it out. Mister Man can't even walk yet, but he can slide down a slide!! Oh yeah!

I don't want to have my identity be formed by what my kids do. That's their "thing". When I release myself from the idea that I am my kids and my kids are me, I have a simple identity to define. Me. Then, I get to watch them learn how to be Them. Hopefully, along the way, they will feel safe to figure that out, because both Charles and I are present, and loving, and our life isn't full of confusing drama. That's about all we can do.

That, and enforce a chart.


Deanna said...

I like this post. So, so very true- our child's life is his/hers and ours is ours. I don't think I've ever heard it said this way, and it just loved it.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing post , I always look forward to reading your blogs! Miss chatting with you! Amy xo

P said...

Yeah my kids manipulate or care less about charts, it's not for everyone or everything as you see. Kudos on the slide! Good luck with the transition - I held on to home based/parent attended small group as long as readily possible. and still don't get enough feedback to know what's happening without attending therapy myself. Skills in therapy do not necessarily correlate with skills in educating / sharing with parents! I hope you can peek in & get regular feedback like at our local center.

P said...

I definitely get the identity thing but many people see us as a DS family I bet but its families like yours that break the mold--working in your event business, teaching ballet and blogging around daddy & kiddy schedules wow.

I like the parent participation even if its brief - but more than drop off & most programs. I wish our preschool allowed/required that! ss

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