I'm having trouble understanding my (internal) reaction to 6yo DS, who has never been an early milestone kiddo. He does things at his own pace, whether it's riding a bike, learning to tie, warming up in a social situation, or anything else. Intellectually, I am aware that it is important to allow him to be who he is; I acknowledge that life is not a race, it's not a competition, and I am already nostalgic for some aspects of his babyhood, so I should feel no rush for him to grow up and become more independent. I hope that I exhibit this patience and acceptance to him and to others. However, on the inside, I find myself feeling inexplicably frustrated and even angry when he won't try something or when I see that he is "behind" his peers. This is such an ugly feeling and seems so ridiculous that I am unable to talk to anyone about this in real life.
I'm posting it here because this is not really about his development and whether it's normal--it's about my reactions and emotions. I was making some progress on this and some other issues with a therapist, but I am no longer seeing her. I suspect that some of this stems from feelings in my own childhood that I had to be perfect, that I had to be smart, and that I had to be happy at all times (or at least present that face to the world). I am attempting to avoid exerting that pressure on to him, but it is welling up in me instead. Maybe I am secretly one of those competitive parents looking for gratification in who my child is and what he can do. Well, if I am, I am not getting that gratification.
Please help if you have any insight on being more accepting or any thoughts on where this is coming from. I am very committed to fostering an emotionally healthy environment for him, and my feelings are interfering with that.
I wonder if trying to get more insight into your feelings might be the way to go about this. Here are just some random ideas; do any of them ring a bell or remind you of something?
- Your parents judge you as a parent based on what DS does (and by extension you also feel judged by society as a whole).
- You have tried so hard to back off and let him bloom at his own pace that you resent how easy it is for him, when it was so hard for you as a child.
- Or, perhaps, you feel like he should appreciate it more (that you don't force him to be or feel something he is not) and he doesn't - he has no clue how it could be.
- He is very different from you and it's hard to relate.
- Separate from the first point above, you feel judged as a PERSON (not as a parent) based on your child; if he is not exceptional than perhaps people think you aren't either.
- You relate to older children (or even adults) better than younger children, and feel anxious for him to hurry up and mature.
If you feel judged, who do you feel judged by?
Do you feel more frustrated/etc in certain situations or with certain other people around? What are the situations, who are the people?
Are there recurring words that linger in your brain? (Ex: "He'll never get it!" or "He could do it but he's refusing" or something). Have you heard these words from anyone else in your life?
What do you think makes a really good ("perfect") parent? What kind of child would this parent produce? Could a really really really good parent produce a child who is not a superstar? (Could a bad parent produce a child who is a superstar?)
These are all meant as questions to get your thoughts rolling, no judgment or pigeon-holing.
Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.
I'm a secretly competitive parent. I'm outing myself right now! I'm working on it to and it stemmed from the constant barking from family growing up about needing to be the best at everything and if you weren't the best than just don't try they don't want to be embarrassed by mediocre.
When I step back from the situation with my little one being late to do everything. EVERYTHING! Walking at 18 months (nothing wrong with her) and then my oldest wetting the bed until 6. (nothing wrong with her either, she just didn't mind it). Anyway when I step back and look at their actual happiness and really see that they are just who they are, I really enjoy this ride so much more. But it's hard not do that measuring thing all the parents do. Really really hard.
Thanks so very much for your thoughtful responses! lmakcerka, it helps to hear your confession. It IS hard not to measure--we as parents want some reassurance that we are doing well, and we want others to notice and appreciate the special things about our kids. laohaire, your bullet points gave me quite a lot to think about. Re: who is judging me: I was feeling a little "on display" in front of some houseguests we had (no fault of theirs--no evidence of judgment, just my own issues clouding things), and DS was acting like a normal kid sharing his space and his things--that is, mostly congenial with some bumps here and there. I understand the reason my mom always told me "what you do reflects on me" ad nauseum in my childhood--it feels like it!
I also realized that another way to deal with this, instead of sitting around pouting about how my son can't ride a bike or what have you, is to actively encourage him, to challenge him, and to help him cultivate that initiative. DS has never been one of those "I want to do it myself" kids. He's very mellow that way. I caught a glimpse of another thread about where attachment parenting ends and fostering independence begins--I think DH and I have let DS lead the way in certain areas, and that has worked well in many ways, but it may have crossed over into our being a little...complacent? Passive? So last night we asked him if he wanted to ride his balance bike or work on tying shoes. He chose shoes and tied them successfully and proudly 5 minutes later.
I grew up with a fear of making mistakes, a fear of making people angry, and a fear of appearing lazy. I am working on those things. They are no fun. Coincidentally, I found a book at the library yesterday called Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive. It claims to help us understand the psychological legacy that affects what we do and say in the present as parents. I'm going to look at it now. :)
"What you do reflects on me" - that's huge, and no doubt related.
My book recommendations:
When Your Kids Push Your Buttons: And What You Can Do About It by Bonnie Harris
This one talks about "triggers" in your parenting that make you react with impatience, anger, guilt, frustration, etc. She talks about how to identify the triggers and how to break your automatic reaction so that you can move to a more constructive approach.
Family Patterns Workbook by Carolyn Foster
This helps you to identify spoken and unspoken rules and values ("What you do reflects on me" is certainly one) in your family of origin. And it gives you the perspective to help you separate the values that you just assumed were universal but are not in fact beneficial, from the ones that you consciously want to continue and adopt for your own family.
One thought that occurred to me in reading your post is that, while encouraging your DS to take more risks is a fine idea, you will want to also come to terms with the whole "fear of making mistakes" issue first so you don't pass those values (and anxiety, etc.) on to your son while doing that. I have no idea, but it's possible that his reluctance to spread his wings, so to speak, is based on such a fear.
But I also think it's possible that it's not related at all, and he is just built that way. My 6 year old daughter isn't one of those "I'll do it myself!" kids either, and I don't think we have similar background in that regard. Some of the things we've had to go out of our way to teach her are a little strange - such as how to open the front door or the car door (I assume most kids just try it out and pick it up on their own).
She also can't ride a bike without training wheels (though I, too, have nefarious plans in that regard this summer, tee hee). Also, by the way, I myself was 6 when my mom got the training wheels off my bike (I remember this firsthand). It wasn't traumatic for me or anything, but I would have happily continued with the training wheels for who knows how much longer. The reason I've thought about this in detail is precisely because it seems everyone around us thinks it's pretty late for DD to still have training wheels, but while it might be later than usual (I don't even know what the usual timeline is), it's hardly crazy. Oh yeah, in one of the Ramona books, she is 5 years old and she and her friend Howie modify her tricycle to be a two-wheeler. Granted, she didn't use her trike "much" anymore, but the book suggests that it wasn't insane that she wasn't on a two-wheeler without training wheels at age 5. So I don't think it's crazy at all, and I look at anyone who thinks we're crazy like they're crazy. Humph.
Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.
I have a special needs child and making peace with that is something I've done a lot of work on.
But the first step is being honest with yourself that your child may not be developing typically and finding out the truth, and then getting them all available help.
I don't think it is possible or appropriate for a mother to attempt to make peace with her child's developmental differences without making sure that there child is getting the best help possible. I suggest you post on the special needs boards with the issues your son is having and get some input about what sort of evaluations/therapies might be helpful.
I know how hard it is to admit that one's baby isn't doing OK. I've been there. It does get better.
but everything has pros and cons