He is His Own Person
This post was actually written a few weeks ago. Handwritten in fact. The general idea was floating around in my mind for awhile after seeing a post from my amazing photographer/momma/friend (amazing applies to all three categories, BTW). She said something along the lines of 'My child's behavior and actions are no reflection of what kind of parent I am'. There was a time when before my children had the capacity to make their own choices that I would have rolled my eyes and disagreed with her. Hell, if I hadn't (and continue) to go through the trials my oldest has put me though, I might still have that same viewpoint.
My oldest kiddo is 5 and a half. It's hard to imagine that much time has gone by. It's hard to contemplate that he is basically his own person- a tiny one- but one capable of making his own thoughts and choices.
He is basically a chameleon kid- put him with another quiet child, and he is calm and quiet. Next to a loud child- he mimics them as well. He is overly social and has almost no limitations as to who he will socialize with and when. Teaching him when it's appropriate to harness this skill, doesn't come easy when Mom and Dad are self proclaimed introverts.
In a way, it's easier to handle when he acts out when I am not there. His decisions are separated from me.
But on this night, when I wrote most of this blog post down, I was at his taekwando practice. I was sitting with the other parents, watching my kid make poor choices about his behavior. Standing on the sidelines watching things trigger his behavior and stuck being a bystander.
My anxiety went through the roof. My head immediately started spinning with thoughts about what the other parents must think of my child, my parenting skills, our home life, etc.
We are so worried as a society about what others think about us, that it's turned into assuming our child's behaviors are a reflection of ourselves.
ENOUGH OF THIS. Enough of the parent shaming, the guilt trips, the advice. ENOUGH. We deserve a break from this constant stress.
His first year of preschool was harder than I anticipated- having to stay after on more occasions than I would have liked to discuss his behavior. With year 2 came some of the same issues, and finally an age where he could go through the testing and receive the ADHD diagnosis. I am seriously so thankful for his teachers. They have been nothing short of amazing with communicating and working with me to help make things easier for my kid. They understand it takes a village. A village of help and support, not a village of unsolicited advice and judgement.
Here is the part where I start getting the questions. Most are meant well, but nonetheless aren't helpful. The "that diagnosis is overused, are you really sure?", "If you were stricter, he would be better", "if you weren't as strict, he'd feel freer to make good choices", "less screen time will help", "he needs to eat less candy.", "you aren't medicating him are you", "there are medications out there that can help". All of that. It makes me so angry some days. Especially when I haven't specifically asked for the input.
I parent my children the best that I can. My husband and I have put new plans into motion to help our child learn to cope with how his brain works. Even as I type this I almost feel this urge to justify this post with listing all the things we've done, but I am not going to. This isn't about how good or bad of a parent I am.
It's about the fact that my 5 year old child is his own person.
For 5 years, my husband and I have taught him life skills and values we believe to be important. We hope we've ingrained them into his brain. At the end of the day, that is all the matters. My child is at the age where he is learning to make his own path and his own choices. He is learning the consequences of those choices. His choices do not reflect on my parenting.
Don't mistake this for me saying "he's 5, time to let him go!" He still needs guidance and correction. He's not going to make the right choices a lot of the time. My point is, his choices should not reflect on my parenting skills.
He is old enough to be held accountable for his choices. Whether that choice is to sit quietly (which is rarely ever) or to talk too much and be disruptive. That is a choice he makes. It doesn't mean I did not teach him manners. It doesn't mean I give him too much sugar or screen time. It means, he made the choice to act that way.
The sooner I am able to break out of the mindset that him and I are of the same mind, the better I will be as a parent. The easier it will be to let me give him the room he needs to make mistakes. One's that will teach him more than I ever could.
So here is my challenge:
The next time you see a child and want to think "wow, he must have had a lot of sugar today" or "why wasn't he taught any manners", please- keep those thoughts to yourself. THEN find the mom/dad/caregiver and tell them something nice. Acknowledge something they are doing right. Let's be a society that hold each other up, especially when we are expecting judgement and looks. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
I am a good parent. My husband is a good parent. My friends are good parents. Our kids are their own person. Parenting is hard. Watching them make choices and grow up is even harder, but the hardest is feeling like you must be doing something wrong, because their choices seem to result in judgement and advice on how to "fix" it.
Thank you for listening and no matter where you are in your parenting journey, know that you are doing a kickass job.