By Kelly Hirt
I planned on writing about something else today; I intended to write about yesterday’s fencing class. I was impressed by my long and lanky eight-year-old boy. There was a level of persistence and focus that I was proud to witness. Despite other people taking their own lessons in the gym, mine listened to his instructor and focused on his directions. He was challenged in ways that my son doesn’t normally tolerate. At one point, my son tripped and fell hard to the floor. I gasped out loud. In previous activities or other years, that would have ended the instruction immediately, but he stood up and was able to shake it off. He continued the lesson and there were even a few smiles that helped bandage whatever pain his knees were feeling. There was a celebration in the car on the way home as we reviewed the successes of the morning. He was proud and sat taller during that ride home.
Yesterday, it was a great day. Today was not.
It was a challenging day to parent my twice-exceptional boy—he’s intellectually gifted with extremely immature social skills—and my reactions weren’t ideal. I feel like a fraud because I didn’t do what I write about. I didn’t brush it off like I usually do, like he was able to do yesterday at fencing.
Frequently, I write about the need for recovery on the weekends. I know that my boy needs it. I know that his home and his parents are refuge for him; we take his frustration because he feels safe with us and he is more fragile after tolerating the discomfort and stress of school. On most weekend days, I understand it. I expect it.
Today, I didn’t want it.
Typically, I don’t let myself get sucked into the negative talk and escalate an emotional rant with my own visible frustration. I usually let him walk away where he cools off in privacy and returns with an apology. Sometimes his door is closed for twenty minutes as he collects himself and then he can enter back in the coming and goings of the house with grace and some dignity.
Today, I didn’t allow it.
The frustration when his computer game didn’t go his way or he was asked to do something that he didn’t want to do was just harder to take. The ongoing complaining about laundry and cleaning his room and the sermon about the cruelty of homework on the weekends, was painful. I can usually distract him with a game or a snack or a favorite book. If it gets too much, I usually remind myself that he needs the help, the tools and I am able to join in and help problem solve. I can put aside my own thoughts of unfinished work or upcoming challenges and focus on his needs for order and calm.
Today, I was annoyed by the inflexibility.
Instead of listening, I lectured. Instead of waiting, I stomped my feet and found things to randomly pick up and move to other places to keep my body active while I was filled with words of frustration. Instead of accepting, I pushed back and wished for what I wanted instead of what is. These acts were exhausting my body and mind, but I was consumed in that moment with all the things that were hard, the “I can’ts” instead of the positive and the progress.
Like many mothers, I don’t usually promote the bad days. I don’t post pictures of the tantrums and tears on Facebook for others to witness. I show the posed pictures and I share the successful family gatherings. Maybe, I needed to share it today because it got to me today.
How can I be a parent that shares the needs of twice-exceptional children with others, and be the parent that ignores my own son’s needs? I feel like a fraud.
Then, I retreat to my room. I allow myself the same opportunity for recovery and I begin to think that the sharing of only the good on Facebook … well that could be considered the fraudulent act. The perfect picture at the pumpkin patch or the toothy smiles on the first day of school provides such high expectations that other parents wonder how they can match it. They wonder when they don’t have those same moments in time, why parenting is harder for them.
I look at all of this differently now. I realize I am not a fraud, I am honest. I make mistakes. I am a parent.
Kelly Hirt is a mother, teacher & writer. She started her blog http://mytwicebakedpotato.com/ as a way to support and connect people parenting twice-exceptional children. Kelly’s work has been seen in Macaroni Kids, Huffington Post, and many other sites.