Mothering a child with invisible disabilities is not easy, but it’s rewarding. It’s a path chosen by souls who want to evolve. The interplay between my son’s and my life has included great joys and plenty of times that weren’t so fun. And through it all, he’s been my greatest gift and teacher because of his struggles. It’s also been because of him that I discovered energy healing and about a year later had my very unexpected first spiritual awakening.
Let’s face it, change often happens through suffering – trying to alleviate suffering.
I tend to want to do things well and mothering is no exception. When my son was very little, handling him the way I was raised wasn’t working. He didn’t respond to spanking or my raised voice. Thankfully I was introduced to Positive Discipline when Little Man was around fourteen months old at a mommy and me sort of playgroup a maritime friend turned me onto.
This particular parenting philosophy, developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen and based on the work of psychologists Dr. Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs was designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful, and resourceful members of their communities. Positive Discipline teaches important social and life skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and encouraging for both children and adults. The fact that the teachings are as respectful of children as adults really felt right to me.
Because meeting out punishment disguised as “consequences” was not part of the program, it also felt right to me. Instead, they advocated letting a child experience natural consequences of their actions, like becoming cold if they don’t wear a jacket.
From the PD website: “recent research tells us that children are hardwired from birth to connect with others and that children who feel a sense of connection to their community, family, and school are less likely to misbehave. To be successful, contributing members of their community, children must learn necessary social and life skills.”
We are hard-wired for connection.
When my son was in elementary school, I took advantage of parenting classes based on the work of Positive Discipline. Our school district offered a ten-week class called Developing Capable Young People, which was held during the evening with free childcare. I took it twice.
Beyond learning by reading the text and watching videos in class, we participated in exercises that gave us incredible insight into how our interactions impact our children. It was pretty enlightening to see how when I received loads of praise with one little criticism at the end, all I remembered at the end of the interaction was the one little criticism. Apparently, the class was an adaptation of a course originally designed for business management. Let’s face it, when people are treated with respect and feel seen and heard, whether they are children or adults you’ll get more from them.
During the years my son was in elementary school, as he struggled and I tried to figure out what was going on and get him help, I engaged him in a variety of therapies and a reading tutor, and somewhere along the way I came across people like psychologist Dr. Ross Greene, whose lenses of perception were free of the harsh judgment I felt when it came to talking to some of the people in my son’s school. They would tell me things like my son just has to learn he’s going to have to work harder than everyone else.
Dr. Greene’s focus is on collaborative and proactive solutions, working on the premise that when children are struggling, it’s because within the school setting they have lagging skills and unsolved problems. These are two things that can and should be addressed by the school. (On my page of ADHD and Learning issues, I collected a few of the websites and people I really admire).
Far too often people focus on things they can’t change and are beyond their control, like telling a child with dyslexia, ADHD, anxiety, and sensory processing disorder he just has to work harder, as if he didn’t already know. (Such BS!)
Little Man recently entered the workforce for the first time in his life, and not unexpectedly, because of all the unknowns it’s been stressful. He got a job at the grocery store I frequent the most. He’s familiar with the store, and as a customer, I’ve always liked shopping there.
As Mom, I’ve had to be supportive and encouraging, having learned years ago that pushing him too hard or using threats is a great way to shut him down.
From day one, with every moan and groan, bitch and whine about this and that, I shared stories from my first jobs and encouraged him. I reassured him that he was going through the learning curve every job has and things would get better. When he complained about his legs hurting I bought him new comfortable and supportive shoes and reminded him that as he got in better condition his body would adjust, after all, he’s been quite inactive for the past few years.
And after a month on the job, becoming somewhat comfortable with the demands of the job and getting to know his co-workers a bit, Little Man’s body began to speak. Instead of complaining less, his legs hurt more and more.
Eventually, he felt so poorly he was sent home early, and he called in sick the day after. The next two days he had off and all he could think about was quitting. We talked and talked, and as much as I’ve spent his entire life supporting, encouraging, and pushing him (even when he had panic attacks and was in tears), it was time to walk Little Man through whether or not to leave this job. Knowing when to say when.
As a parent, it’s not only my job to walk beside my now young adult but to help affirm what are now his decisions. Even though as a healer I know his leg issues likely have something to do with fear of walking forward in life and stepping into what for him is the scary unknown, at this age and stage I need to back off.
In one of my healing sessions years ago, I was shown a decision I made around my son’s age that impacted the trajectory of my life. And the lesson I learned was that it was the first major life decision I made where I didn’t give in to the pressures of society or anyone else. It was all about me and my life. When I was true to myself.
This stage of parenting is helping my son get out into the world as a productive member of society while being as true to himself as he can.
The day before he was supposed to go back to work he asked me if we could go to one of his favorite places – a big museum of flight – which meant an hour and a half to two hours drive each way depending on traffic. I had a few commitments planned for the day but after thinking about it, decided to reschedule my afternoon appointment. He needed the distraction and I needed to spend time with him.
The long drive gave us time to talk and for him to play songs from the soundtrack to Top Gun Maverick, his current obsession. We saw the movie when it came out and it was fantastic. Walking around the museum, there weren’t many people there, and because I was tired and Little Man’s legs were sore, we stopped now and then to sit while he regaled me with facts about several of the aircraft. As he spat out all sorts of info, I snapped photos. Finally, we made it to a part of the museum where they have large aircraft such as Air Force One, the Concorde, a Boeing Dreamliner 787, and the aircraft Little Man had wanted to see all day: an F-14 Tomcat. The aircraft used in Top Gun. Having seen the star of Top Gun, we headed home.
Chatting on the drive home, he’d made up his mind that he was going to resign. I could feel the relief. With the decision made, as we worked our way back up the highway my inner teacher kicked in. I talked about things like not burning bridges, mentioning that his next employer would likely call his old boss to see what sort of employee he was, and we brainstormed a bunch of reasons he could use for why he was leaving. The truth is, in the end, it wasn’t a good fit.
The tricky thing about living with invisible disabilities is how much to disclose during a job interview and how much to tell your boss once you’re hired. Although it’s becoming less stigmatized to talk about mental health, I’m hesitant to have him say too much upfront.
The next morning, Little Man sent his supervisor a message telling her he was resigning and I had him copy it to Human Resources. Although language and writing skills aren’t his forte, what he came up with really impressed me. Once his workplace knew he was done they let him know what steps to take to formalize things, and with my help, he wrote and signed a letter formally resigning – short and sweet. Because I needed to go grocery shopping anyway, I dropped it off for him along with his apron and an access card. He was pretty cooked.
It’s important to me that even though he was only at the job for a month, he learned how to leave a job well. As well as he could. I wish he’d been able to give them even several days’ notice, but his body said no quite strongly.
Something I’ve learned over years of parenting my son is when to push and when to lay back. And choosing to go with him to the museum and being with him while he decided to leave his first job was more important than keeping my afternoon appointment and letting my son continue to suffer.
I made the call to choose love.
When my son was little, I found a parenting technique that resonated with me. When he struggled in school I found experts who resonated with me. And I realize the thing they all have in common is they all resonate with unity, nonjudgment, and love.