Dads Are Parents Too

The television is on in the background while my husband and I are getting dinner together for ourselves.  It’s a show that neither of us have seen before, a typical family sitcom, and we each catch a few lines here and there and chuckle.  At one point, my husband asks me what is actually happening on the episode, as he has been unable to garner the theme from just the few scattered scenes he has watched.  I stop and pay attention for a minute or two and it becomes very clear that this is the type of episode of family television that I absolutely loathe – the kind where the dad is a bumbling idiot who doesn’t know how to parent and is attempting to prove to the mom, the overachieving perfect parent, that he can do the bare minimum of tasks without her help.

lazy dad

I find this theme completely insulting for my husband and all the other wonderful dads that I know.  From the dawn of television this has been a common subject among family sitcoms, one that portrays the dad as an incapable and inept parent and the mother as the goddess of parenting.  It often portrays a savvy, strong completely competent mother magically doing it all, while the father comes home from work, cracks open a beer and sits his tuchus on the couch for the remainder of the evening ignoring his family.  This is such a demeaning and insulting way to portray men.  We spend so much time focusing on equality for women (which, yes, is MUCH needed) that we seem to ignore when we are doing the same thing to our male counterparts.  This outdated portrayal of the father who works all day and can’t be bothered with household duties such as parenting is almost as antiquated as the idea that women can’t work outside of the home and be a quality employee just like their husbands. 

We rightfully spend an incredible amount of time teaching our little girls that they are equal to men. We make sure they understand that they can become astronauts and rocket scientists, Supreme Court Justices and Presidents, but for me, it is just as important to teach my son that he can be a quality parent equal to that of his wife.  Just because I am a female, a mother, it does not make me a better parent then my husband, a father.  The definition of a parent is literally, “a father or a mother.”  My husband and I are equally qualified to provide support to our children.  Yes, there are some things that I will do better and there are some things my husband will do better, but together we make one excellent parent. 

When we decided to have a family, we made the decision together, with the understanding that they would have two equally competent parents.  Since then, there has not been a single day since when my husband comes home from work and does not participate in the parenting duties on some level.  He does it—despite being obviously exhausted after an entire day of work—because he loves his children and wants to be involved in their lives.  He does it with a smile on his face and the care and attention that it deserves.  He is directly involved in every aspect of their lives. He knows, without asking, what will make them stop crying, what they eat, how they like to sleep, how well they are doing in school, and what areas of life they struggle in.

I do a lot of volunteer work and I recently returned to school.  This would be impossible if I didn’t believe that my husband was an equally excellent and competent parent.  Many nights I miss bath time and putting the children to sleep.  He doesn’t “step in” to any role.  He is their father and does it seamlessly because that is the task that our children require that moment.  There are just as many nights that my children call out, “daaaadddddddyyyyyyy” to come in and help them with whatever is ailing them.  This does not make me jealous, it warms my heart.  They love him and understand that they can rely on him in their most trying times just as much as they can rely on me.  Together we are teaching our daughter that her role as a mother is a shared one, and our son that being a parent is equally as important as being an employee.

 

Dear Mr. President; Love, A Jewish Mother

Dear Mr. President,

Over the past few months, hundreds of bomb threats have been called in to Jewish Community Centers (JCC) around the country.  Yesterday, a bomb threat was called in to two such centers just miles from my home.  My friends and I have children of preschool age, many of whom attend school programs at various temples across our county.  Frighteningly, these children participated in lockdown drills yesterday due to their schools’ proximity to the JCCs.  Many had police presence within their schools for the remainder of the day and this morning, welcoming their children to school.  These children are between the ages of one-and-a-half and five.  That’s right, toddlers and small children of the Jewish faith around my county are being escorted into school by police simply because of their religion.  Their parents are frightened to send them to school.  The children themselves are confused as to what is going on, and in turn, scared.  Let me reiterate just how young these children are.

I watch you sign bill after bill allowing guns to be places in schools.  Why?  Because you claim that you want to keep students safe, and this is how it will be done.  I watch you make speech after speech about closing our borders.  Why?  Also, in your eyes, in an effort to keep the children and citizens of your country safe.  You will no longer allow refugees into this country.  Families and children whom are being killed daily, hourly, in the name of religion are being deemed unsafe by you and your cabinet.  However, your silence with regards to what is happening in your own country is making my children, my friends children, and my families children unsafe from fellow citizens born and raised right here on U.S. soil.  This threat isn’t come from any refugee or immigrant, it comes from our neighbors.  Yet, you remain relatively silent.

You put a woman like DeVos in power because you preach the idea of a free and better education of a parent’s own choosing for our children.  My friends send their children to these temple schools, yet are now considering removing them for their own safety.  I ask you, is this your definition of proving an education of a parent’s own choice? I want my children to learn their letters and numbers, shapes and colors, play skills and interpersonal skills; but I also want them to learn about their faith.  These threats are making that impossible and your stance, or lack of stance, on the issue is allowing this to continue.  My choice is no longer where my child will get the best education, it is where they will get an education safely.

I have heard you make one single speech on this subject.  You claimed that, “No one was less anti-Semitic then you.”  You pointed out that you had a daughter and a son-in-law of the Jewish faith, and three grandchildren.  Are your grandchildren getting threatened every day?  If so, how can you stand by and watch that?  No, Mr. President, having family members by marriage, does not make you anti-Semitic, it just makes you another person who has Jewish relatives, plain and simple.  I watched your Press secretary, Sean Spicer, claim that it was ludicrous that the murder of two innocent Indian men in the name of hate, could have anything to do with you and your rhetoric.  Are you blind? Deaf?  Ignorant?

You campaign promised to “Make America Great Again,” to make it safe again… Is this what safety now looks like for my family?  You spend so much time pointing out the threats from other countries that you have turned a blind eye to the increasingly severe threats right in our own back yard.  You want to spend 45 billion dollars to increase our defense fund.  Why not spend that money on programs to teach the people of our country tolerance, love, and acceptance?

Fellow citizens filled with bigotry, and the numbers of those citizens are growing exponentially every day, need your guidance.  They need you to denounce the killings, the prejudice, and the threats.  They need to see that you are a man of peace, and love, not one that drives this country through hate.  What kind of a leader are you if you can’t keep all of your citizens safe, not just those of religions you deem acceptable?  Please, I beg you to do something about this, something meaningful, something drastic, something now.

 

Love,

A Jewish Mother

Imagine Your Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

I have written a lot about ADHD, however, I have only merely breathed a mention of a lesser known challenge among kids today, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  When many of you think of SPD you either have absolutely no idea what it means, or you’re like, “yes, yes, that’s when your sensors are processing all wrong, right?”  Well, in a way, yes, but do you understand what that really means for daily functioning?  I’ll break it down for you in a way that is most easily understood.

You have five senses, touch, sound, smell, sight, and taste.  Additionally, and less known, our bodies also take in information through body movement, position, balance, and muscle control.  During your day, these systems work seamlessly together to take in the environment around you- so seamlessly, in fact, that you likely don’t even register the workings of this finely tuned machine until a wrench is tossed directly in its cogwheel.  You have all put something in your mouth, like tapioca pudding, or heard nails run down a chalk board and had a visceral bodily reaction.  You shutter a little, maybe gag on that weirdly textured food, and are generally left with an overall edgy feeling for a few seconds.  What if you felt that way throughout your day, and you never knew when it was coming or what exactly will cause it?

Sensory overload is very real, and very challenging.  It is easy to see a child having a tantrum at a birthday party and think, “There is THAT kid, the one whose parents can’t control him, the one who needs a good spanking, or the one that is just a total wuss.”  Now, stop and think of that same child hearing experiencing the sounds of the other children running around the party like a heard of lions roaring in his head.  Consider that because his balance is off he has a hard time participating in the designated party activity without falling and this makes his sad and frustrated.  Ponder the fact that he doesn’t know where his own body is in space, let alone how far away he is from the kid he is supposed to “tag”.  Now, look at him again.  Does it seem strange that he is cowering in the corner and crying?

man tantrum

SPD infiltrates every aspect of a child’s day.  There is no time in which your body is not using its sensory system.  This is just a small picture of how it affects a child.

 

It’s 4:45AM, your child rolls over in bed and tries to go back to sleep, but a bird chirped outside and it might as well have been as loud as a bell ringing directly in his ear.  He glances at the window and notices that it’s just starting to get light out.  Time to get up, there is no going back to sleep with cacophony of birds and the bright light peeking through the sides of the blackout shades.

Breakfast time, he’s already tired because, well, he’s been up for three hours.  Food choices are severely limited.  This is not just a picky eater, this is an eater with sensory issues, a completely different ball game.  He struggles to get down the same thing he eats every morning, a cooled toasted waffle, with a THIN layer of butter- because too much butter makes the waffle soggy and that feels “weird” in his mouth, a cheese stick- right out of the refrigerator because if it’s sits around for more than a few minutes it warms up and gets “squishy”, and if we are lucky some apple slices, but make sure that there are no bruises or excess skin hanging off of the slice, that would deem it garbage.

Prep for school comes next.  Brushing his teeth only happens with one specific flavor of tooth paste and a very soft bristled brush-  it’s important to keep that gag reflex in check (this issue also makes going to the dentist a nightmare).  Socks must be perfectly placed on the feet and ankles; it’s impossible to put shoes on if there is even the slightest imperfection!

Bus time!  It’s important to sit in the front and it makes him miss sitting with his friends.  But let’s face it, the bus is loud, a sensory overload nightmare, and it makes his body out of control.  When his body feels this way he lashes out and someone might get hurt, or, say, hit in the head with a seat belt.  He’s a young child and only has a mild understanding of what is happening to his body in the moment, he has yet to develop the skills to control himself all of the time.

School… so many different challenges throughout the day.  The cubbies are in a small space and sometimes all the kids gather there at once, he feels claustrophobic and sensory overload is imminent.  He tries to get out of the area but there are just too many bodies in his way.  Overload begins, he is being crushed into a small space with no movement and he starts pushing kids out of the way so he can get free, breathe and calm his body.  Being surrounded in such a close space by so much (kids in this case) is overwhelming, he can’t figure out how close he is to the other children and then when he bumps into them it feels like he is hitting a brick wall that is blocking his much-needed freedom.

He tries to sit and complete his work, but the students next to him are tapping their pencils and moving around in their chairs.  Don’t they know that that sounds like a symphony of distraction and makes it impossible to focus?

Lunch brings its own trials.  Don’t forget that most food is unappealing and has too much flavor to begin with (he has broken out into a cold sweat from certain brands of chicken nuggets that are “too peppery”).  Now add yelling, excited kids to the mix and eating, though being hungry, is practically impossible.

The afternoon wears on and the 4:45AM wakeup is taking its toll.  Any resistance he has had of keeping it together is fading fast and sensory overload comes quickly, often, and hits hard.

After school, he wants so badly to participate in activities but he is shot.  The lack of sleep, adequate nutrition, and heightened bodily awareness work against him.  After some quiet time, he may or may not be ready to participate in an activity of his own choosing.  Translation: there are things he wants to do, to learn, to engage in, and his body just will not afford him the ability to do so some days.

Night time approaches and it’s time to bathe, we have the same argument over washing his hair that we have had every night for years, his hair follicles hurt.  Moms, imagine what your head feels like after you have worn a ponytail for too long and you finally take it out, it’s sensitive, right? I assume that this is what his head feels like all the time.  Fully submerging his head under the water to get the shampoo out… a nightmare.

Finally, sleep time.  Luckily, he is so exhausted from his early wakeup that there is not much resistance.  His body is done and desperate for rest.  Some light scratching on the back and a few deep tissue hugs and he is out like a light.

 

This is just a snippet into a day with SPD.  It infiltrates every aspect of a child’s life because one’s sensory system is always engaged.  It makes certain sports impossible, some types of parties a nightmare, eating, learning, and simply playing with friends a challenge.  Some days it’s not noticeable, and other days it’s a constant struggle from the minute he wakes up until the minute he falls asleep.  So, next time you see a child having a fit in the middle of Target, ask yourself, is this child a “bad kid” or just possibly having a sensory meltdown?

 

sensory-overload

 

Confession: Being A Stay-At-Home-Mom Just Isn’t For Me

I have a confession to make, and some of you might cast immediate judgement—I truly do not like being a stay-at-home mom.  Thinking back, I’m not quite sure what my original plan was, six-and-a-half years ago, when I had Man.  At that time, I was a speech therapist working with the elderly population in nursing homes.  I told them that I would be returning after four months, but in the recesses of my mind I wasn’t convinced.  When Man turned three-months old, I barely knew how to take care of him myself, let alone teach someone else how to do it in my absence.  Therefore, I resigned from my job with the plan of returning to the workforce when he was one.

Surprise!  When he was nine-months old, I became pregnant with Lady.  It seemed unrealistic to go back to work for just six months before leaving so I again delayed my return to work.  I told myself that I would give Lady the same whole year that I gave Man.

Flash forward a bit to Lady’s first birthday and it grew obvious that Man was not like other children.  His then-undiagnosed ADHD and SPD made him VERY dangerous.  You must believe me when I say I literally could not take my eyes off him for fear that he was either in mortal danger or putting his sister in danger.  At that time in his life he was climbing on counters, getting into ovens, running out of the front door of the house daily, and unplugging any wire he could get his hands on.  He was one of those children who defied the laws of babyproofing.  I was his babyproofing.

As the years went on he remained dangerous in many ways and I just didn’t trust someone else to take care of him.  If he pushed some kid down the slide at a park, I, his mother, needed to be there to smooth over the destruction.  I know how overwhelmed I felt taking care of two toddlers, and I felt that there was no way I could ask someone else could do it.  Maybe, in the back of my mind, I was just scared to return to work after three-and-a-half years away, and this provided an adequate excuse.

Man entered Kindergarten last year, and in many ways life became easier. However, I had grown so unhappy over the years that the thought of going back to a job that I didn’t love seemed intolerable.  I had always wanted children.  There was never a doubt in my mind that starting a family was one of my number one goals in life.  So, imagine my surprise when after some soul searching I realized that being a stay-at-home-mother was not for me.  It took me six long years to admit that to myself.  I was under the impression that once you had kids, you were supposed to enjoy taking care of them.  Sure, not every moment of every day, but yes, ultimately child rearing was supposed to be satisfying.  Personally, for me, it did not bring the level of daily satisfaction that I want out of life.

We scrimped to hire a babysitter and for the first time in six years I had a helping hand.  Over the past six months, I have never felt better.  Much of that is due to the fact that I am now able fill my days with something in addition to child rearing.  A few months ago, I made the decision to fulfill a lifelong dream and applied to schools for a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling.  I start school tomorrow and I could not be more excited.

Of course, because the world works this way, my babysitter is on vacation for two weeks while I am beginning school.  Therefore, my mother is coming to help with the kids while I am in class.  We were going over the schedule:

“Are you getting home first or is J (my husband)?” my mom asked.

“No, I won’t be home until about 9:30 in the evening, I have a board meeting at the place where I volunteer right after class.”

“Oh, well… how are the kids handling all of this, Laura?” she questioned in her most “I’m not judging you, but really I am judging you” tone.

“The kids will be fine.  They want me to be happy and being home with them all day did not make me happy.  They have had me all to themselves for six and a half years and now it’s my turn.”

‘Uh huh…” she replied and abruptly changed the conversation.

The change in conversation was her signal to let me know that she didn’t agree at all but wasn’t going to engage me in a debate.  In her eyes, staying at home is most important, and above anything else, my children need me whether I was happy or not.  And P.S.- children are the light of a mother’s life, so why wasn’t I just happy?!

I disagree.  I feel I have been there for them and will continue to be there for them every day of their lives.  I love them so much, that I put my own feelings aside to fulfill the obligation of being their parent.  I thought that that was what was most important.  But, after a few years, I wasn’t being the mom I could be.  I was a shell of myself going through the motions.  I wasn’t present and I certainly was not giving them the mother they deserved.

I don’t like being a-stay-at-home mom and spending my days being at the beck and call of my children and my household.  I hate running them from activity to activity and bringing them to play dates just to sit and watch them play with another child.  I get bored after about five minutes of pretend play; please, PLEASE, do not make me serve fake food to that imaginary family one more time. Pretty please?  I do not want to beg anyone to eat his dinner anymore, standing over him imploring him to eat one single bite after one single bite.  I just can’t do it anymore.  I feel guilt and shame even admitting this because it makes me feel like I’m a horrendous mother, but I want to spend some of my days doing something else that stimulates me differently.  It’s what I need to be a happy person.  And as a happy person I will be a better parent when I am with them.  It’s not as though I don’t love my children and garner great joy from them, of course I do, but that joy is even greater, even more valuable, when I’m doing tasks outside of parenting.

So tomorrow, I turn my family upside down to do something just for me.  I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Well, if you didn’t want to take care of your kids, then why did you have them?” And the truth is, I feel very selfish doing this.  Nevertheless, I also know that I have no chance of being truly happy if I don’t.  I know I am no less dedicated to them as I was when I was staying at home all day; I am still caring for them.  I am showing them that it is never too late to follow a dream, while working towards creating the happiest home I can for them.  In my heart, I know I will still be here for them—I will still be their mom. I will make sure that they feel loved and cared for and if they need me, no matter what I’m doing, I will be there.  But I will no longer be resentful.

It’s Not My Pussy That’s Powerful

I’m sitting on the couch right now next to Man.  We are eating our lunch and watching Senator Elizabeth Warren deliver one of her fiercely powerful and inspiring speeches at the Women’s March.  I began tearing up and Man asked why.  I explain to him the significance of this march, the importance of protests, and the seriousness of standing up for the equal rights of all citizens worldwide.  He seemed to understand it at his six-year-old level.

“Oh, so they are saying that a woman can be a President too?”

“Yes,” I explain, “They are saying that women can do everything that a man can do.  Do you believe that?”

“Sure, I don’t understand why they can’t.”

He is blessed to be a young child, bathed in his innocence.  As his mother I will protect him, but continue to raise him with the attitude that he so plainly stated.

For various reasons, I am not attending a march, but by no means am I sitting back and remaining silent.  I am of sound mind and body, and therefore, take responsibility for doing my part in this historic movement.  It’s within the crux of my last statement where the crucial message lies, “of sound mind and body.”  My body, my entire being, is strong, not just my pussy!!

This word has been tossed around lately (thanks, Trump) and used colloquially as though it doesn’t hold a most lewd meaning.  I am filled with pride to see women wearing their “pussy hats”, but we are SO MUCH STRONGER and SO MUCH MORE than just our pussies!!!!

My heart is strong: it allows me to have empathy and give kindness to those less fortunate.  It helps guide me when teaching my children the important difference between right and wrong.  It serves as a beacon of strength even when it’s wounded by injustice.  It acts as a monitor when deciphering the intricate ways of the world.

My eyes are strong: They remain wide open and take in all that is around me.  They have no trouble noticing acts of unimaginable kindness, but they see clearly the evil in the world.  I am not blind to what is happening around me, and because of that, I can do my part to create change.

My hands are strong:  They sit here typing my words for all to see.  I might not be marching today, but my hands allow my message to be carried.  They allow the strong women marching today to create and holds signs of anger, signs of hope, and signs of change.  They allow our message to be carried worldwide.

My lungs are strong: They fill my body with the breath I need to scream my message loudly to all that will listen.  They lend timber to my voice.  My mouth is strong: It formulates the words with which to call out inequality, unfairness, prejudice, and discrimination.  It provides me with the opportunity to instead begin a meaningful dialogue about change.

My ears are strong:  They allow me to hear the cries of those less fortunate.  They allow me to receive the ideas of those smarter than me, and with them I am afforded the opportunity to hear the significant and dynamic messages of every woman speaking at the marches today.  These messages inspire us to get up and act!  In conjunction with my eyes, I can gather knowledge on how best I can work to bring about change.

My uterus is strong:  It incubates a new generation of people which will continue to bring our message of strength and hope into the future.

My brain is strong:  It allows me to understand my strengths and my weaknesses and focus my abilities on where I can best make change.  It tells me that I am more than just my pussy.  It shows me that when I use it, I am equal to every other human on the planet and there are no limits to my potential.

My body is strong: when used together, all my parts create a tough, nasty woman, who will sit quietly no longer.  A woman who deserves equal pay, choices over her own body, and is as powerful as any man out there.  I am a woman who will stand up for equal rights of all people, who will call out injustice when she sees it, and who will teach her children to do the same.  WE are our strength, not our pussies.

 

I Am Every Mom

I’m often asked why I blog.  Initially I stayed anonymous, but over time the anonymity began to dissipate and by now, most people who know me also know my blog.  Occasionally, one will question why I write, why I allow myself to be so vulnerable by sharing my life so publicly.  It didn’t begin this way. Initially I was attempting to write one of those funny mom blogs… but I was the only one who found them funny.  One day I was struggling, and I wrote a piece that reflected that struggle.  The response was overwhelming.  People were commiserating with what I was writing, and it made me feel better.  No, it made me feel fantastic.

As the blog progressed and my goals grew loftier, I often tried to find a unique spin on parenting topics- I mean, how else was I ever going to reach a million readers and launch myself into mommy blogger stardom?? I would write something and hand it over to my husband to critique, he would hand it back after correcting my horrendous grammar and exclaim that it’s ready for publishing.

“But what did you think of it?”  I always pressed. His words said “great,” but his face said, “meh.”

“It was good.  You know I think your best posts are the ones where you write about yourself and your struggles,” he would bravely respond.

And he was right; I would always connect the most with people when I wrote from the heart.  You see, I’m not unique, I’m just like you.  My voice is all of yours… just posted publicly to 1,700 people.

Like all of you, there are days where I’m Supermom!  I’m totally rocking parenting—everyone is following directions; there are no major tantrums; we’re on time for most things; the kids are happy and smiling and so am I.

But, I also admittedly have horrendous parenting days where it seems like the Joker has swooped in and kicked Supermom’s new, larger, mom ass.  It’s even accompanied by the crazy Joker perma-grin affixed to my face.  I wear this to convincingly pretend that I’m not ready to run from my house screaming at any moment.  Those are the days I wonder exactly what I was thinking when I agreed to let my husband touch me with his penis.  I immediately flash to the moment, seven years ago, when I did the happy dance as I tossed my last package of birth control in the trash basket.  Oh, right, like most of you, I asked for this.

Like so many of you the absolute best moments of my life (except for maybe my wedding day) are the moments I’m watching my children be happy and carefree.  I never knew true, pure love until they were born and I wouldn’t give that feeling up for anything.

family-hospital

Becoming a complete family of four!

I’m not unique; I truly miss the days of spontaneous, uninterrupted alone time.  I crave some time to myself that is not at midnight when everyone in the house is finally asleep.  Sometimes I spend most of my day ignoring what they are doing and playing on my phone.  I just need to escape for a while and not be present that day.  If one of them is bleeding uncontrollably, of course, I’m right there.  But seriously, go and pee by yourselves, I know you can do it.

I too struggle to find the balance between being Laura and being Mom, and blending the two is not as seamless as I thought it would be.  I worry that I have lost myself, and if I try to find her, I am being a selfish and bad mom.  I have to believe the struggle is even more significant when you are a working mom and have to wear the office hat and the mom hat—kudos to you ladies.

I, along with my lovely gym companions, constantly wonder if my body is ever going to return to its pre-baby figure.  Once upon a time there was a woman who could walk around in public without a bra and eat foods other than lettuce without causing her to bloat and still look pregnant.

workout-goose

Will I ever be fit again?

I have come to rely on the circle of moms whom I am lucky to call my friends.  I have lifelong friends that I will forever cherish; however, there is something special about mom friends.  Parenting can be a lonely, isolating job, and having a person who can truly understand my day to day life has become vital to my happiness.  This is especially important when parenting a child with special needs. Not many people “get it” like those that are in the trenches right along with you.

I am like every mom who just wants her children to grow up happy and healthy.

I am like every mom who looks at her children and is just floored by the fact that she created such angelic beings, that they came from her!

I am like every mom who sucks at crafts and just didn’t sign up for this crap when they popped out a kid.

I am like every mom who wants to provide her children with a loving and nurturing home.

I am like every mom who would rather gouge her eyes out then hear one more thing about Minecraft.

I am like every mom who brims with pride when her child accomplishes a feat.

I am like every mom whose heart breaks when her children are sad or disappointed.

I am like every mom who sprints from her house screaming “freeeeedom” when the door shuts behind her for a coveted date night with her husband.

I am like every mom who feels overwhelmed and just wants to give up sometimes.

I am like every mom who has let her kids eat popcorn for dinner because the eating struggle is real, people!

I am like every mom who does the best that she can.

I’m not unique; I am like every mom…

I am like you…

silly-family

I am every mom just enjoying her family.

My Kid Will Never Play Soccer, And That’s OK

I’m sitting, happily gazing at Man during a swimming lesson.  Down he goes, and then out pops his little face adorned with a satisfying grin.  I too am beaming with pride at his success—you see, until recently, his Sensory Processing Disorder made it impossible for him to fully submerge his face under water.  Watching him do this is HUGE and fills me with delight, but, I will admit, also relief.  At six, Man was the only first grader still wearing floaties at the pool, something he was acutely aware of, but unable to change.  Until now.

 

floatiesman

 

I glance up to notice one of his classmates sitting on a bench next to the pool.  He is quietly reading a chapter book, a large chapter book, a chapter book that clearly exceeds the literacy skills of most first graders.  He is there patiently enjoying his story while his little brother takes a swimming lesson- he has already mastered swimming himself.  A pang of jealousy and competitiveness burns inside of me.

 

“Do you know that I saw XX reading a chapter book!?!” I mention to a mom friend a few moments later.  She is not surprised and also casually mentions that he excels at soccer as well.  He is a classic overachiever, and is bound to succeed in life- a future filled with a fabulous career and riches galore is most definitely in the cards.  My friend marvels at this and comments on how she too would love for her son to be successful.  I respond by saying that I just want Man to grow up and be happy.

 

Maybe it’s because I watch him struggle at tasks that most children do seamlessly without thinking, or maybe it’s because I have already sat in four meetings with his educational team and it’s only the beginning of January, but for whatever reason, to me, success for my guy means getting off the bus with a smile on his face.  I know I am not unique in this thinking, and all parents want their kids to be happy, but each of us has a different definition of “success.”

 

I began to ponder, what are we really asking of our children?

 

It has taken many years and a boatload of acceptance for me to come to the realization that, at least for the time being, Man is not going to be the star of the class, or the captain of the soccer team, the most popular kid, or the most talented.  It’s not that he doesn’t have the potential to be many of these things, for he is smart, and kind, and funny, brilliant and talented in ways many other children are not.  But his ADHD and SPD cause him to struggle in many areas.  Watching him struggle has taught me that what is most important, what is vital to his future success, is his happiness and self esteem.

 

I was recently brought to tears during one of our many educational team meetings.  I tried over and over again to find something, just one single thing, which showed that Man excelled as a first grader and as a little boy.  “Maybe he calls out so much because he has a lot of ideas about the topic you are discussing!”  “What if his behavior is deteriorating because he’s bored and already understands what you are teaching?”  “Don’t you think he would benefit from some more challenging math work?”

 

“No”, was the repeated answer.  “No, he is not bored or in need of any more academic challenges.  He is the way he is and we are all doing the best we can for him.”

 

“You don’t understand, I wept, I need for him to excel at something, anything!!  Just tell me one thing he does really well!!  I watch him struggle to participate in tasks like piano and dance, things he loves and he himself chooses to do.  I need to hear that there is something, ANYTHING, that he participates in during his day that does not pose a challenge!!”

 

I was met with sympathetic nods, but more importantly, I was told the following, “Don’t worry, he really is doing well!  He is so happy and enthusiastic, he loves to learn and participate, he is kind and has lots of friends and he thinks very highly of himself.”

 

And in that moment what is most important became clear:

 

I no longer care that he hates soccer or that he would rather build a rocket then score a touchdown.

 

It doesn’t bother me anymore that he continuously calls out in class or doesn’t fit into the profile of a typical student.

 

I stopped defining the achievements or failures of his days by his behavior chart.

 

If he is still wearing floaties at the pool this summer, I would be cool with that and I would make sure he felt like a badass wearing them.

 

It’s not worth getting frustrated about the fact that he has been sounding out short words since he was three, but reads on grade level because he can’t focus long enough to get better at it.

 

The fact that he has no interest in taking tennis lessons or doing Tae Kwan Doh like his friends is of no consequence.

 

When he needs to leave his dance class because he is too over stimulated, so what?

 

That day he sat and colored for the entirety of his piano lesson because he had no more focus left in him, big deal…

 

I won’t tell you that I don’t worry constantly about his inability to perform the tasks of typical children his age; I worry all of the time.  But I can tell you that I am far more focused on teaching him lessons that will make these facts irrelevant in his future.  I’m trying to teach him to be himself and to be happy with whom he is.

 

What are the “tiger moms” of the world doing for their kids if not teaching them to define success by each external achievement?  I am teaching Man to define success by each attempt.  Failure is great; it means you had the balls to try.  If you tried, you can feel proud and accomplished.  I want him to understand that choosing happiness above all is what’s important in life.  Today it seems that we push kids to do more and be more, what happened to just being happy kids?  When did it become so important for a six-year-old to be a superstar?

 

Success is near impossible without happiness and good self esteem.  It is unattainable without having to learn to cope with failure, and to figure out how to pick ones self up, and try again.  Not everyone is going to win that trophy, or come in first place, and that has to be ok.  We are doing our children a disservice if we teach them that they have to be good at everything, rather then just trying their hardest. They must understand that doing their best is good enough, even when they come in last place.  Failure is part of life; it’s the grace with which you handle it and the lessons you take from it, that define you.

 

He might never play soccer or tennis, be a professional hip-hop dancer, or the valedictorian, but one day, things will fall into place for Man.  His future is bright and, following many failures, he will become whatever he wants to in life, I am absolutely positive about this.  But every day is a successful one, because when he lays his head on his pillow at night he does it with a smile and a sense of accomplishment.

crossfitman

Takings a stab and Crossfit.  Success!