Posted in family life

holding open doors of possibility

Rondel loves the zoo. I think he would want to go there almost every day (some days have to be for Grandma’s house) if possible, and he never wants to leave no matter how long we’ve been there. There are always more animals to see, more wonders to explore, more facts to learn. As much as he enjoys the splash pad, he always asks to see another exhibit instead, despite the heat, until I mandate a water break on behalf of his siblings.

So I thought to myself, I wonder if the zoo is doing any summer camps? Rondel will probably still be too young, but I can still see what’s available. Blithely thinking these things, I went onto their website and discovered that Rondel is not too young by any means, and would be eligible to attend a half-day camp focusing either on animal stories or animal art.

Part of me leaped up in excitement! He loves the zoo! What a great opportunity! How awesome would it be to get to spend that much time at the zoo, talking about animals, looking at animals, surrounded by people who also love animals! What a chance to try to integrate with a group of peers, in an environment without a parent, to stretch his comfort zone and expand his social skills! And oh… what about dealing with loud groups, bright sunlight, the challenges of speech articulation delays, and the anxiety of the unknown? This is, after all, the boy who struggles in a typical Sunday school classroom even with a personal aide, and the boy who cries at the park if he turns around and can’t see me – even if I haven’t moved from where he left me. Would a summer camp be an adventure or a nightmare?

My husband had the wisest words about this dilemma, about the dichotomy between excitement and fear: that if we, as Rondel’s parents, make a decision for him based on our fears of what might happen, based on what we think his limitations and struggles might be, than we are placing that limitation on him instead of giving him a chance to grow and soar and potentially surprise us all with his abilities. We would need to plan well for it, obviously, to give him the best possible chance to succeed and to give him a way out if it proved to be too much, but it would be foolish – especially in the long-term – to simply close this door because we fear he will fail.

It reminded me of a passage from (you guessed it!) Differently Wired. (Reber really seems to have covered everything. I promise I didn’t begin writing this post trying to sneak a quote in!)

“Choosing fear equates our child with their diagnosis, rather than seeing them as creative beings who are here to shake up the world in their own magnificent way. Choosing fear is the very thing that keeps us stuck. Choosing fear creates a culture of apprehension and anxiety in our families, and affects the way our children, many of whom are already highly sensitive and anxious, feel about themselves. Operating from fear leads to more limited thinking and fearful energy, which both we and our child will feel, and less chance of our child’s uncovering and experiencing their extraordinary possibilities. It’s the epitome of a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Instead of choosing to direct my child away from opportunities and experiences because I’m afraid they’ll be too hard for him, I am choosing to present him with the options and let him come to his own informed decision – and then, I am choosing to support him through the results of that decision, even if they prove to be difficult or unpleasant. That is the process that will help him grow in self-awareness and confidence, that will help him develop autonomy and independence, and that will therefore help him grow into greater possibilities instead of holding him back in a box created by my own anxious and limited imagination.


If you liked the quote from Differently Wired, read my brief review of the book here and check back in June for the giveaway!

“Bravery is a muscle, but instead of building it through exercise, we strengthen it with each brave act we do, big or small, parent related or not.

“Bravery isn’t a limited resource, and it’s also something we all have within us.”

Debbie Reber, Differently Wired, Tilt 6: Parent From a Place of Possibility Instead of Fear.


If you liked the quote from Differently Wired, read my brief review of the book here and check back in June for the giveaway!

bravery

Posted in family life

night time fears

Limerick has been having significant difficulties falling asleep, at nap time and at bed time, even when he is obviously exhausted (bags under his eyes, defiant and emotionally-driven behavior, constant yawns, lack of appetite and a desire for milk, etc.). I’ve been having trouble identifying exactly what is causing it; Limerick doesn’t seem able to express the problem when I ask him what’s wrong or what would help.

Tonight, knowing that a general source of fear among the under four set in the family has been monsters lurking in various places, I asked him if he was scared. Instantly his body got calm and he buried his face in his hands. (In the dialogue that follows, note that Limerick refers to himself as “you”).

“You’re afraid of a monster.”

“Monsters aren’t real, sweetie. They are just pretend, just part of a story, from someone’s imagination.”

“But you still think there’s a monster.”

“Well, can we pray and ask God to keep you safe from any monsters and help you not be scared?”

“That won’t help.”

“What if we ask God to send an angel to fight away any scary or bad things while you’re asleep?”

“That won’t help. You will still think there’s a monster.”

Oh baby. The power of our thoughts is so great. I’ve been in a similar place, where I had a belief that I cognitively knew was unfounded but couldn’t let go (mine was linked to my depression), and I know how hard it is to change one’s thoughts – especially when tired, and probably even more so when one is only two years old. Honestly, I’m impressed he was able to articulate his thoughts so clearly, and I’m not surprised he is struggling to overcome his fears with reason.

I asked him if he had ever seen a monster, and he said he had seen one in a movie. Now, he knows the Monsters Inc. monsters aren’t real, and he seemed to have overcome that fear, so I was a bit confused until he said, “You saw one in the snowman movie.” Ah! “Marshmallow isn’t real either, sweetheart. He is just a pretend story.” The relief in his body was palpable, and at last he was able to relax and fall asleep.

Sometimes it is so hard to get to the root of a behavior with a young child, because it can be difficult for them to understand it themselves, much less explain it to an adult. But it is so much better – for him and for our relationship – when I can take the time to discover the fears and thoughts that are going on underneath, instead of simply trying to address his refusal to lie down and go to sleep by controlling his actions.

 

Posted in links, musings

fighting the fear of rejection

The deepest fear of the human mind is abandonment.

That statement was dropped ever-so-casually into a talk on Neuroscience and the Soul that I was listening to this week, and it stuck with me.

If our greatest fear is that the people we need won’t be there when we need them most, is it any wonder we try to keep our needs and burdens to ourselves, to avoid that letdown?

If we’re terrified that the people closest to us – the people we long to trust and by whom we need to be loved – will walk away if they knew our deepest selves, it is any wonder that we feel lonely and isolated, unable to truly share ourselves lest we suffer their rejection?

And I think about how our fear of abandonment, instead of being assuaged and lessened by deep trustworthy relationships over our lives, is actually strengthened and confirmed by our experiences.

The baby left to cry himself to sleep learns that he is just too much, too intense, too needy – that no one, not even the people he needs and loves the most, can handle his full range of emotion and personality.

The preschooler sent to her room to tantrum, isolated from her support system when she is most overwhelmed by her own emotions, learns that her anger and disappointment are going to cut her off from the feelings of love and security she craves.

The child bullied at school, dealing with intense rejection from his peer group and unsure of how to fit in and make friends, who then goes home and finds no sympathetic or listening ear, learns – writes deeply into his psyche – his own inadequacy and worthlessness.

We learn, as we grow, that the intensity and depth of our needs, the power of our emotions, and the uniqueness of our personalities contain things that no one else cares enough about to deal with – that the cry of our hearts for unconditional love will go unanswered. So teenagers hide their fears and questions and doubts and struggles from their parents because they’re afraid of being shot down and pushed away again. Spouses keep secrets and avoid topics of conversation because they’re afraid of conflict and disagreement leading to rejection and separation. We isolate ourselves so that we can avoid abandonment – we choose self-inflicted loneliness over the loneliness that whispers in our ears, “no one loves you; no one will ever love; you are not worthy of love.”

I remember in the early years of my marriage sitting in the car reciting psalms to myself before I could bring myself to go into our apartment, because I was so afraid that this beautiful relationship I had would suddenly and inexplicably fall apart – such is the depth and irrationality of this human fear of abandonment.

It takes incredible courage to open our soul to another, to risk this most fierce and desolate pain. We’re so often callous and insensitive to those are daring it, perhaps in ignorance, perhaps in self-protection – for to love another imperfect person unconditionally is also one of the most difficult things we can do. And yet this mutual dance of daring and difficulty, of risk and response, is where we can begin to redeem our broken covenants and communities.

Let us love each other with Christ’s love and allow ourselves to be loved in return; let us strive to know each other with grace and open our hearts to be known intimately in return. There is no great beauty without great labor and at least the risk of great pain.