Today was a day that left me shaken, defeated, and questioning my parenting.
I had two experiences that made me feel that not only was I failing as a parent, but that I was ruining the developmental health of my child, making adults that interact with my kid miserable, and focusing too much on the unkind ways of the society we live in. I let my emotions override my patience and sense of good and I yelled at my child when he was just being himself (which I encourage over all things.) The outcome of my own actions led me to the bottom of our Halloween candy bag.
My beautiful 4-year-son is excited about all things in life. He loves people, friends, music, nature, toys, Walmart, shiny objects, and basically everything. He asks tons of questions- a never-ending and exhausting stream of questions. He gets fixated on concepts, numbers, and movie characters, and it takes patience to be with him at times. His obsessions can be overwhelming and annoying. He’s loud and he’s bossy, he tries to control many of the situations he’s put in, but then, don’t we all? However, he’s 4-years-old, bright, inquisitive, and he’s just trying his best to figure out where he fits in in this complicated world, how to navigate his emotions, and what to make of the many people around him.
The fact that I just wrote so many negative things about my precious baby is causing me to reach for another Reese’s.
It started with an unfortunate incident during a class my son attends, where I felt he was singled out and punished for his behavior when it was clear to me that his behavior was a response to his anxiety about being asked to do something he was quite nervous about. I was left shaken and embarrassed but still holding it together. I went to a bakery to get my favorite sandwich for lunch. As I was ordering at the counter, my son spoke to the women behind us in line. I could tell she didn’t want to engage with him, but I left them alone. My son asked her about her watch, one of his current obsessions, as he reached out to touch the watch the women swatted at him and pushed him away.
Tears began to well in my eyes as I grabbed my son and yelled at him to stop approaching strangers.
But I didn’t mean that. I want my son to be friendly, curious, secure in himself, and most of all, fearless. I was hurt and stunned by the insensitivity of this woman. How can someone who is waiting in a line not take a second to answer a little kid’s question? There’s not much else to do… I was trying to understand and forgive her actions because maybe she was having a bad day. I don’t know her circumstances and wish her well, but goodness my heart is hurt. I lashed out at my son, yelling and totally losing my cool when I really wanted to confront the unfriendly women in the bakery and the teacher of my son’s class.
My husband and I allow our son to ask as many questions as he can think of. We have no secrets from our son, and we are open, honest, and let my son push his limits. None of this leads me to questioning my parenting.
We don’t enforce many rules unless his safety or the safety of those around him is being threatened.
This is our choice and we do this because we are trying to raise a happy, healthy, and confident child, who is fearless, creative and free. All of these are qualities I’ve been working hard to reclaim for myself during the past three years with a therapist, in meditation, and in self-study since having had them beaten out of me by the world and the circumstances that I’ve had to endure in life.
I know our parenting philosophy has bothered some folks who have spent time with us. In fact, one friend who disagrees with our parenting style told me that I need to discipline my kid more. I don’t agree with using threats of any kind to control my kid.
In fact, I’ve observed that my son is sensitive to the energies of people around him and his behavior reflects the energy he gets from others.
He’s figuring out life and where he fits in, and I’m not going to stifle his creativity, his growth, his sparkle, or his curiosity.
To be honest, since having my son, I’m stunned at how impatient and unfriendly the world around us really is. When I was out in public with my daughter, who was born with severe cerebral palsy, I got used to the staring, became numb to the unkind things that people would say, and unsolicited advice that folks feel is their right to give.
I thought this was just one more burden of being a special needs parent. As it turns out, it’s just me, questioning my parenting.
I was wrong, and it seems that the world can be even more judgmental when you have a typically developing child, especially one who is inquisitive, bright, energetic, and at times, a lot to handle. Luckily, I’m older now and most times can brush off the world’s judgment, but other days, it can be too much, and I lose it, yell at my kid, and drown my guilt in a bag of Halloween candy.
We all have those days, don’t we? We are all just doing our best in a world that’s not so supportive to moms. Raising humans is a hard and very important job. Each and every choice I make is born out of deep love for my kid and a deep longing not to screw him up. Questioning my parenting is normal, but I need to make sure it doesn’t derail me.
I will speak to my son’s teacher explaining my feelings about the class, his anxiety issues, and her response to them. I will lose sleep over the email I will craft to ensure I do not offend her and make things worse for my son. I will keep bringing my son to the class despite my embarrassment. I will speak to my son calmly about engaging with strangers and teach him that he must ask permission before touching someone and their possessions. I will do my best to be thoughtful and conscientious.