Dear Worried Mom,
Today was a big day, a monumental day! I just want to throw my hands in the air and yell it from the rooftops: "MY SON WENT TO A MINI-CAMP today!" Not only did he go to a mini-camp, but he went happily to a new place, without any kind of worry. No phone calls home to pick him up, no night-before-jitters. "Bye Mom!" he said and went right.......out.....the.door.
Six hours later, Noah walked back in from his rock climbing adventure, took a shower and then LEFT AGAIN for a friends' house.
Why might this be such an exciting day in our home? (I know that every summer, thousands of kids across the country attend day camps.) The reason that I'm beside myself with excitement and joy, is because this was a first for my child. Never in his life has Noah gone to a school or class or day camp or workshop or tutor willingly for the first time and without any fear. Such a sigh of relief it is to do something that feels just totally normal- pack a lunch and send the kid off with a smile.
The reason that I'm sharing and writing this post (with Noah's permission), is because I'd like to say something to all the Moms out there who are struggling with an "outside of the box" kid. The kind of child who never seems to go with the flow, never does the things that everyone else's child is doing at the time. The kid that you love with ALL of your heart, but who exhausts you because he or she is just more intense, takes more energy and time, and logistics and desperate prayers in the night. I'm here to tell you - BE PATIENT MAMA, THEY WILL DO IT WHEN THEY ARE READY, I PROMISE YOU. It'll be ok. 😊🙏💖
When Noah was about a year old, we enrolled in a Mom and Tot class. I'd take him, and it was great, but he never seemed to want to do what the other babies and toddlers were doing throughout the year. He didn't want to join in circle time for songs and puppets, or leave the table where he was snacking, even when everybody else had left. He had no signs of wanting to walk at 13 months and was the very last one in his preschool class to potty train. Each time that I worried or felt that I must be doing something wrong as a parent, to have have the loan kiddo in the bunch; my wonderful, life-long friend Andrea from the Mom and Tot days would say to me gently: "Don't worry, he'll do it when he's ready." I would take comfort in her words as Andrea was already the mother of fantastic four-year-old twins and the sweetest toddler. I just knew she must know something about all of this.
It might have taken thirteen and a half years as a parent, but I feel as if today was the quintessential moment that all of my trust and belief in this bit of parenting wisdom was absolutely solidified. I've known it for a while, I lived and breathed and and forced myself to go forth with the deep conviction that he'd do it when he was ready. Today though, it was the perfect illustration of this great adage.
While I have Andrea to credit as my first patience guru, many many others have uttered the same words to me over the years. There's a reason that we pass this maxim down to each other, and I just want you to know that it's true!
For some of you who are newer readers, you might not know that we unexpectedly and without choice, found ourselves homeschoolers in the fall of 2015, when Noah was entering the fifth grade. It turned all of our lives upside down in a matter of days and challenged every iota of my vision and assumption of what his schooling would look like. What helped me to adapt and not fall completely apart during that time, to take a deep breath and have faith that I was meeting my child where he was at, was most certainly the book "Simplicity Parenting." Simplicity Parenting and the educational philosophies that honored the natural difference in children's own timetables. Their compassionate teachings showed me that rushing these timetables was of little if not detrimental use.
Had I not already searched for answers in books and seminars as to why my little guy was able to do surprising things like read at three, but couldn't handle the emotional demands of a school day like his same-age peers, I would not have come across the philosophies of child development from Kim John Payne, Gordon Neufeld, John Holt and "The Conscious Parent," by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. These educators, doctors and child development experts, helped me to have the amount of trust needed in Andrea's message to finally embrace where we were at, rather than let the wistful feelings and doubt get the best of me.
I appreciated the message of Simplicity Parenting so much so, that I enrolled in their Family Life Coach Training last fall. It was an excellent opportunity and I hope that someday, I will be here online or in person, helping parents to find more family peace and simplicity.
I wanted my child's inner voice to be one that said: "I can do it!" I wanted him to view any of his differences as uniqueness instead of short-comings, his goals not yet obtained as exciting puzzles, not hurdles. It was all about acceptance, encouragement and cooperative solution finding.
So, for example, earlier in my parenting career, when Noah would have a complete meltdown each morning before school, or not be able to go forward with a field trip or be sent home in tears from day camp, I would crumble into my grief for myself and him. Then I would do what many well-meaning people with less sensitive, more typical kids would suggest to me - I would "stay strong" and make him jump right back into that class or camp the same way the next day. I did what I thought I was supposed to do, less be labeled as a "push over," a "helicopter parent," someone that was not "in control," of their child. So I pushed and tried to hold back my own tears when seeing his. I sent Noah to school, enrolled him in camps and classes. I R.S.V.P.'ed "yes" to birthday parties that were difficult for him and accepted playdates that I knew would end in burnout. Instead of stopping, listening to my inner voice, following my heart and honoring the needs of what my child was so outwardly displaying to me year after year, I just kept doing what I was thought was the right thing to do.
By the time he was ten, I just couldn't do it anymore. I was burnt out, Noah's joy was waining. It was time for a paradigm shift. I LET GO. Instead of making him do what society prescribed as normal, I tried to listen. I listened to what he was feeling and why. We talked through the knowns, and the parts he didn't know just yet about himself. We partnered in attaining goals and got a team together with some of the most caring and supportive people. We tried new things together, on HIS timeline and I celebrated each little victory when he struck out on his own. He was, and I was... HAPPY. We found our peace.
Fast forward to today: here is a thirteen year old boy who started a new camp without a hitch. He asked to take piano lessons, guitar lesson, golf lesson and goes all on his own. He happily spends summer weekends in Northern Michigan with our family, without his parents and we have to practically drag him home from loud raucous study sessions, full of teens. In fact, he's become so suddenly independent that Noah begged and pleaded to us in June, to allow him to fly BY HIMSELF, ACROSS THE ATLANTIC to join his tutor/our beloved friend in London who would be finish up speaking at a conference for ADHD and different learners. Then, they were going to spend two weeks, visiting friends and traveling around England. I wish we had been able to get it together in time, next summer...
The little boy who found school and birthday parties and vacations to be too much, who wanted to stay home in his cozy home and routine, he's now a member of Monday Night School with other Teens at our temple, about to start a junior cadet program with The Civil Air Patrol, and holds the ultimate goal of starting history classes at our local community college when he is in 9th grade. He says: "Mom, it's ok, you can just drop me off."
😀😀😀 😀😀😀😀😀😀😀 💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖
So worried Mama, whether your young child is more timid or cautious or fearful than most others. If your kiddo is struggling to begin reading or cries at the sight of math or takes forever to potty train, just know, they will do it when they're ready, and that it will be ok.
Seek out the professional developmental or educational support that they need to thrive and be their best. Don't be ashamed to take their hand and work through things TOGETHER and listen to your heart.
Be their biggest cheerleader and keep your hopes high-your positivity will nurture your child's inner voice and help your them to grow.................more than you can ever imagine.
You're doing better than you know worried Mom! Keep up the good work!