A few weeks ago, I was traveling for work and after checking my phone upon landing in New Jersey; I had a voice mail from my son’s school principal asking me to call her. I frantically called my husband to learn that he had already spoken to her and no one was hurt. While this was a relief, I was upset. Because this wasn’t the first time we had a call from the principal.
For our six year-old.
I tried to maintain my composure as I got into my cab to start my three day work trip, but I all I wanted to do was go home. I wanted to be mom. And I wanted to cry.
My husband and I love our children more than anything in this world. We both had incredible childhoods and remain on the same page as we cultivate our experiences through parenting. We teach our children about love. About being a friend. And right from wrong. We foster independence and inspire creativity. We limit TV and video games and we (try to) eat healthy. We play floor hockey and have nighttime routines. I think we’re pretty good parents. And I would do anything for my kids.
So, what am I doing wrong?
My son is a wonderfully spirited, kind and funny little being. And he makes his mark with everyone he meets. But he can also be a challenge.
Developing the reputation as the ‘naughty kid’, my husband and I became accustomed at an early age to his daycare teachers’ requests of “Can I talk to you for a minute?” during our nightly pickups. From the plethora of potty words, running when he was supposed to be walking, yelling when he was supposed to be talking, and refusal to participate in group activities because he would rather play, we heard it all. Oh, and I can’t forget his stint mooning other kids. He thought it was hilarious and the only way we got him to stop was to make him wear a belt he couldn’t take off himself.
So, when my son stepped on the bus last year on his first day of kindergarten, I thought he was going to take on the world. This is what he needed. And now was his time to shine and be like the other kids.
Be like the other kids?
I know how that sounds. At the time, that felt like a normal thing to feel. A normal thing to wish for. Because I just wanted him to fit in. I wanted life to be easy for him.
But the truth is, he still struggles. He struggles every day. And I can’t help but feel like I did something wrong.
You see, my son is wicked smart. When he wants to be. He’s wonderful friend and will stick up for you if you get picked on. He will pick up your pencils when your backpack falls on the ground and put his arm around you if you start to cry. When he is recognized for a job well done, it will make his entire day. And it will be the first thing he tells me when he gets off the bus. His inquisitive personality and comedic sense of humor can light up a room, and I would argue that he has the best laugh in the world. He wants to understand everything about the world and I assure you, he is like no one you have ever met.
He is also very sensitive and is terrified of being wrong or ‘bad’ at something and will avoid some things like the plague. But you wouldn’t know this unless you knew him well. So he can seem defiant and disinterested. He sometimes gets overwhelmed and his anxiety shows itself in difficult ways. He can be impulsive and sometimes says things that he doesn’t mean. And he has a hard time deviating from his expectations. When things don’t go ‘as planned’, sometimes he will shut down.
Because of this, he can get into trouble for making poor choices. And consequently, some of his classmates have begun to distance themselves from him due to natural tendencies of wanting to be around the ‘rule followers’. And I have begun to see the parents who don’t want my son playing with their son.
And I recognize this because I have been that parent before.
You are who you hang out with.
Didn’t all of our parents tell us that growing up? Hang out with the good crowd.
I always envisioned my children engaging with the kids who follow the rules. The kids who do what they are supposed to. They sit nicely. Stand in line well. Use their indoor voices. They’re the kids who everyone wants to be partners with. You know…the good kids.
Not the kids who get in trouble.
I am that mom. I am the mom with the kid who gets in trouble.
And it kills me that other mothers out there might not want their children to play with my child. Not to get to know my child for everything he is. But equally, embracing everything he is not.
It kills me that I have been that mom. And those kids have been my son.
Nothing is wrong with these kids. And most certainly, nothing is wrong with my son.
He is exactly as he should be.
He is messy and imperfect. He is a strong-willed and stubborn. He is exhausting and unique. And he is the most wonderful little being in the world.
Maybe he will grow out of these challenges. Or, maybe he will continue to struggle through the years. Either way, he will be okay. Because God has a plan for this one. Oh, yes.
He will make his mark.
And until he gets there, I will be right there by his side. To remind him of his strengths. Lift him up when he is sad and encourage him when he feels defeated. To help him learn from his mistakes and to understand that sometimes, life is not fair. To protect his heart and advocate for him like no one else will. To do everything in my power to give him the tools to succeed. And I will love him to the moon and back.
No matter what.
Because that’s what we do as parents.
We try our best. To let go of expectations. To accept that life is messy. And it usually never goes as planned.
We fall and we get back up. And we do this everyday.
This is more than enough.