Parenting In a Critical World
Finding the Beauty in my Child
There he is. As beautiful as a kid can get. Handsome, tall, with good looks. Yet there is something beneath that exterior that many don't know. A little person bursting with self worth, entitlement and someone who knows what he wants. My little super hero as I call him. I cannot imagine my life without this little person I call Benjamin. Yet until recently, I felt like the biggest failure as a mother to him.
|Captain America/Ninja Turtle|
You see, Benjamin didn't talk for the longest time. When he was about 2 years old I called Early On back in Michigan where we came from. I stated my concern that he didn't really talk as well as the kids his age, and he had major outbursts of anger, like I am talking out of control, breaking stuff anger. I didn't know how to control my child or how to parent him and I was scared something was wrong.
They hooked us up with speech therapy and sessions with teachers to work with him on behavior. Hahahahaha! Well let us just say that did no good at all. It really didn't. Everything they say about early intervention apparently did not apply to my strong-willed little boy. To me, as a new mom, I was terrified still. Autism is huge these days, and they try to label every child so I thought for sure he was going to get that label, because of his outbursts and his lack of speech.
At the time this was going on he was in daycare most days because I worked two part-time jobs and my husband worked a full-time job. We had no other options because we needed the money! We were barely surviving with those 3 jobs! The daycare he was attending wasn't working out at all. When your child can't talk to you, yet screams and cries every time you pull up to daycare, something is wrong. Listen to your gut and your kid! I still don't know what was happening, I just know the day I never brought him back was the day he was so down trodden, not himself and had some bruises, I never returned. I didn't have enough evidence to do anything with the police so it was just left at that. Scary how we trust our kids to people yet they will never take care of them the way a parent will. I always regret that and wish I could change it, but I can't and I cannot live blaming myself. I can just move on and fix what I can now.
We moved him to a new daycare our pastor's wife worked at and my little boy came back! He actually started saying more and more words, yet his behavior was still lacking. He was hitting kids in daycare and didn't enjoy circle time. He played well most of the time with others, but he got blamed for a lot of things he didn't do as well because he couldn't tell his side of the story. The daycare workers understood this and worked with us immensely with the situation. Not many parents understood though or would just believe that my son was the problem child because no other kid was actually admitting to doing wrong. Benjamin was made to go to a special education preschool for his speech and behavior during preschool hours. He hated it. He screamed the first through 70th time we brought him. Kids in his class had everything from down-syndrome to cerebral palsy and there was my little boy, trapped in his own mind, frustrated beyond words in how to communicate with others.
I think nothing wrong with this preschool, do not get me wrong and don't judge. But no parent wants her child to have to go through that even if his behavior is lacking and his speech is behind. It is very painful, and when your choice's are to stay home with your kid and end up on the streets or work and have him be in these classes, the choice is pretty much made. I could tell he felt as though he wasn't good enough and that he had a problem. The thing is with kids who cannot talk, a lot of people talk in front of them as if they don't exist or don't understand what you are saying. Well that is complete BS, because they can. My son can and did. I know his little heart hurts from things said in front of him. I can't even imagine.
|Family day on December 21st|
The preschool did help in some ways but I could still tell he was not happy and he was just going with the flow of life. Coping as we call it. In July 2013 we got pregnant and lost our baby. And this is where it all changed.
I couldn't stand being in the city we were in with all the drama of a small town after the heartbreak of losing a child and my oldest fading away into the world we call preschool. Where kids are raised by someone other than there parent. I couldn't stand it, so I did something. My husband and I had visited the Twin Cities in Minnesota for an anniversary a few years prior and loved the area. So I hopped on my computer and started applying my husband for jobs in the area that would pay well. Within a week he had a reply for an interview! My dad helped us with all the travel for interviews and the testing Lawrence had to endure to get the job, which he did get.
We ended up moving in February of 2014 to a suburb just outside of St. Paul. The change was immense for all of us and such an exciting adventure. The thing is, when you go from working two jobs to being a stay-at-home mom, life kind of slaps you in the face! Boy did Benjamin and I clash! The change was kind of hard for him (and for me!) at first and he had a lot of outbursts of that rage I was talking about. He would literally beat me up and I would cry not knowing what to do with my kid. I was a failure. I failed in Michigan and now I was failing again here in Minnesota. What was the point!!! I couldn't figure out what was going on. He had been tested for everything you can think of from hearing problems to Asperger's and everything came back completely normal. Nothing is wrong with my kid! I kept telling myself that! I had many sleepless, tearful nights, begging God to show me what to do as his mom! Lawrence works from 7am until sometimes 9 at night with only Wednesday and Sunday off so I feel as if I am a single parent for the most part. The blessing is I get to stay at home with my son, which did pay off.
We got through the first few weeks of the fighting stage and the anger. We made it! I couldn't believe it! Things were settling down and I wasn't failing anymore! I kept him working on his letters and numbers and matching and colors, which he was excelling in before we even moved. We would play outside and explore the woods and the nature center nearby. During the summer we swam almost every day and by the end of summer I had a swimmer who refused to wears floaties anymore and could swim on his own from one end to the other. Yes, he is like a fish. I am impressed for a then 3 year old.
|Before the floaties got tossed in the garbage|
Through this time I started seeing my little boy come back. His cheery face, his giggles, the joy over a cool rock in the dirt. I will never forget this moment at the pool:
We were swimming and two guys were sitting at the edge. Benjamin had his Ninja Turtle floaties on and one of them asked him who his favorite turtle was. He pointed to me and said, "My momma." HEART MELT!
There is nothing wrong with my little boy. He does things in his time and it took me this long to figure it out. He has outbursts of anger because no one understood him or was taking the time to do so and he was angry at me for not being able to help. Now he can calmly tell me what is happening, because I get it! FINALLY I get it! He wants his own way yes. What kid doesn't? He isn't the type of kid to be a yes man and do everything you tell him. He questions as to why? What will it benefit him? He is smart and should be just who he is. I want him to blossom into a man who can make his own decisions and not follow the crowd with whatever everyone else does. He will be a leader with his attitude as long as I can continue to nourish this trait in him. Now that I finally know what I am up against it is so much easier. When those battles come up, I don't push my agenda on him because I said so, I am his mom! No, I give him a choice and that is what he is left with. So when he does make the choice, the decision was his and he was left to make it. Whether it be to sit at the dinner table and eat or to sit in his room until he is ready to do so. I won't starve my kid. He is a picky eater. So if he takes a bite and still doesn't like it, at least he tried it and I will make something he wants to eat. I do not spank and I try to not raise my voice. I am not a perfect mother and will never be, but I have found what works for me and Benjamin. He likes to be understood. All those months not being understood was extremely frustrating and now that he finally has someone who does, he thoroughly loves it and so do I. I finally know my boy.
|Reading the insert to his Lego set|
The speech came in his time. I always get asked "Why?" now. Or the other day I was vacuuming and all of a sudden it stopped. I looked over and he had the cord. "I told you not to vacuum!" Yup. He can talk all right. And I will take every word he will tell me! He was eating bologna a few days ago and came up to me with it and said, "MMMMmmm mommy! This is delicious!"
The other day in the store we had a break through. Benjamin started getting upset in Target because he wanted to look at toys, but it was late and we had to get what we needed and leave. I told him if he didn't want to listen and stay by us or sit in the cart he could go back to the car with daddy and wait for me there. He started crying and being adamant, even stomping his foot in defiance telling us no. I just stayed calm and said those were his options. He didn't want to go to the car obviously. After about 5 minutes of him crying and trying to get us to take him to the toys, he finally calmed down, without being walked to the car, sat in the cart and started helping us shop. It felt so good to see such amazing progress. By not yelling or forcing my agenda on him, he has become a much calmer, more compliant little fellow.
I had a friend phone me and tell me she thought Benjamin was weird because he smelled a cracker at her baby shower. She said she was surprised he didn't test positive for Autism because he was acting so different (compared to what kid, I have no idea). I had a Sunday School teacher ask if he was special needs because she crossed a boundary with him and he tried to hit her.
These are the people I put up with because my son is his own person. I refuse to go down like I did before and listen to this nonsense. I do not condone hitting, but when a teacher picks a fight with a child, I'm sorry lady, you deserved it. A friend who tells you something so hurtful about your child, needs to realize that not every book you read will tell you how each and every kid will behave. Especially when that person hadn't had their own child yet. People say things out of ignorance and because they think they know it all. The Sunday School teacher was a special ed teacher. My friend took early childhood classes. Does that make them know everything? Not at all.
As moms (and dads), new and old, we are put under this microscope as to whether or not are kids are on par with every other child out there. When in reality, each kid IS different. They all learn at their own pace. We need to give them that room to grow so they don't feel insignificant, or that something is wrong with them. They are special people who deserve that! Don't let other parents tell you what is up with your kid or that something is wrong with them because they aren't exactly like everyone else. Embrace their differences because one day, they will make the strongest leaders in the area of life they end up in. Each child learns at a different pace and some kids are hitters while others are biters and still there are others who are the ones who sit back and observe quietly without doing any of those things.
|Summer Day with my little man!|
So moms and dads alike, I urge you to let your child be who they are. Take the time to get to know them. Because I have been blessed enough to find out that my 4 year old is the coolest person I have had the pleasure to get to know.