When I became a mom, I was so sure I would be the kind that jumped in puddles and ran in the rain and didn’t stress the little stuff…and for a long time I was that mom, but life gets busy and crazy and the kids kept coming. And then after years of struggling with a sick son, insanely difficult days and no answers, that mom was nowhere to be found. I’m sure it was a slow progression brought on by stress and life and the heaping pile of worries that came with each day; but she was gone. As someone who cherished being laid back and relaxed, yet able to step in and maintain control, this was a sad reality. Even sadder, was seeing my son struggle daily…it broke my heart. And maybe that was a major part of the progression too…the heartache of pain and anxiety and stress in a little person, one too little to be that way yet…he should be laughing and playing and jumping in puddles, but he wasn’t. And even when this momma tried to encourage that carefree-ness, nothing.
But guess what, today he played in the rain, and he laughed and loved it, and my momma heart was thrilled to feel that warmth again. These years have felt like a long winter with no sun and warmth; and when the sun would start to peek through, the clouds would roll back in with fury. So cold and hopeless, but slowly the sun is reappearing more regularly, and we are laughing and joking and playing and the tears and anxiousness and aggression are subsiding. I’m not sure why this change, I’ve prayed and hoped for this for years, and started to wonder if this would always be our reality…and it still might be, he might just be having few good days, but I think its more than that. I think something in his heart is changing.
A few months ago I started my own journey into unlocking this child…you see, we’ve seen specialists and doctors and counselors and people that work with all sorts of manner of kids, and none of them had answers for our guy. I’m not sure what I was hoping for, but recommendations to play mozart and keep him calm at all times, that definitely wasn’t it. And I’m not discounting those recommendations, he has made huge improvements with his aggression from some of those implementations. But I started to wonder if his issues were simpler than that…we’d been told that trauma from being so sick for so long, and delayed speech just does this to a kid, add in his food sensitivities and this is exactly what you get…but surely there is more, not just a few holistic health options and then just wait it out…I need more.
So I researched introverts and trauma and anxiousness, I poured myself into unlocking a simpler answer, and hopefully solution; and do you know what I found, confidence to parent him the right way for him. There was no big “aha” moment, but we had nothing to lose. So here’s what we did…
Affirmation: We affirmed every “good” thing he did. “You did a great job being brave today and not crying when that stranger said hi.” “I’m proud of you for playing with friends and not needing to be next to mommy.” “You said please without being asked.” And you know what, he started smiling more and trying more and his confidence improved. Amazingly simple and so transformative.
Voice: We gave him a voice. With delayed speech and struggles to communicate, I didn’t realize just how much I was speaking for him. But one day he was telling daddy something, and I jumped in to “clearly” tell daddy what he said, and I saw his face fall (heartbreaking!); I immediately apologized fro speaking for him and now consciously try to let him do all his own communicating. And you know what, he is now confident and talks all the time.
Feelings: This guy feels so deep, and its so easy to find the tears and outbursts frustrating, and I think he sensed that. But when I focused on acknowledging the feelings and giving him room to feel them “its ok to be sad and cry Tate, but when we have calmed down we need to come back and join our friends”, it calmed his spirit. He still feels deep, but he outbursts are less intense and extreme. He needed a safe outlet for all his feels.
And the changes in his demeanor have been felt on such a deeper level too…he now laughs and jokes and plays and smiles all the time, and he’s comfortable not being with me all day long, he will actually play in other parts of the house now. And while its been a journey to get here, and the journey is likely not over, its been a great reminder that kids need permission to think, speak and feel, and once they have that, they are much more confident in this big, scary world.