I want so much for every parent at CNS to know – that there is no such thing as the ‘perfect child’. Whether you grapple with something now or later – you will grapple. You will struggle. You will be scared. You will feel worry and fear and maybe even some embarrassment. I hope for the least of that for all of you – but it is our common experience.
I remember when I gave birth for the first time – I was still in the hospital when I had this very profound realization. Becoming a mother – those first few hours, I felt like the “First Mother”. And then I looked around me – taking in all the other mothers and the babies. And I realized that I had just entered a sisterhood of mothers – that what I had just become was as old as forever and so common to our human experience. There was a comfort for me in that. What felt so first and unique to me became a beautiful connection to all the other women there and all before.
Making that connection – that my experience giving birth was actually not all unique was profound for me. And I think moving on, it becomes easy to forget the shared experience that we all have as parents. It can feel isolating and alone. But it doesn’t need to be. We can all feel pretty isolated in our struggles around dealing with either a difficult situation or the difficult, challenging temperament of a child. There is even a certain guilt associated with when we are upset or angry at our own child – a wish for more patience, better attention, different strategies…a hustle to find that better book to read or that workshop to attend, just to get us the better tools we need to handle it all just a little better.
The interesting thing I find is that children – perhaps because they are so much of us – can trigger and ignite feelings that belie rational judgment or reaction. Perhaps because they remind us of our own shortcomings and struggles, we see them playing out the same issues sometimes and that can be hard and challenging – especially if we haven’t accepted those issues within ourselves.
And then of course, we have our expectations of who we want them to be – what they could achieve – if just given the right environment, schools, opportunities. Especially here in Lexington – and even I would say especially CNS parents – there is a value and treasure placed on our children. This is our gift to them – but with it can come expectation and dreams.
I have four children – all of which have their various challenges and beautiful gifts. They are all very different. None of them have taken the same path. Our first born has a speech disability. You might not know it to meet him – but he stutters and always will have to think about speaking before actually speaking to you. I am so proud of him. He has to be so brave; all the time. Imagine not being able to speak without thinking about it. And he wants to be a Captain in the army – and then a lawyer – and then who knows what. This week he opened his application to the United States Military Academy. There comes a gulp of pride and worry with that. I know that the end of him living here is just around the corner. (because yes, even though right now your day to day might seem like forever; all of a sudden you will find yourself on the downslope of their childhood).
But on that same day that he opened up that application, I got a very hard email from a middle school English teacher about all the work that our third son hasn’t completed yet; and how worried she is about him. And on this same day, our beautiful daughter read 23 pages in 32 minutes — and probably could not tell you what she read or what the book was about. Because she has some sort of disability that makes it really hard for her brain to work. But because she has my stubborn streak and her father’s ability to work incredibly work hard – she gets by. She gets by. And the worry I have for her and her future brings me to my knees.
So I ask of you all to lean in to each other. Don’t judge or even feel all that self-satisfied with your child’s success. Lean in to be there for each other. When you see a child who might be struggling or challenged – realize that is your child (maybe not right now; but someday). We are all in this together. We all share this great road that is called parenthood. And we don’t need to feel isolated or that everyone else expects that we have it all figured out. I will be the first to say – I don’t have it figured out. I am learning everyday. I am no expert. But I just know that every child needs three things – tell them that you love them; three times. Every day. That’s my best strategy. My best advice. My second best advice is this – never feel alone. And if ever do, drop by and let’s have a cup of coffee. My door is always open.