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(31 Days) A Difficult Mind: Day 24, That “Person”

October 24, 2014

I’ve joined the 31 Day Blogging Challenge…31 Days of exploring what it means to live with a neurodiverse child. #write31days

 

People...

Humans are amazing. We have the ability to reason. Just because we can reason doesn’t always mean we do!

We can reason on our own. This is a good thing, it is how we make choices.

We also reason with other people. Talking things out with another human being brings a whole new perspective to whatever situation you are facing.

Just like the song says, everybody needs somebody.

Parents and siblings and even the Difficult Minded child himself, they all need a person. A person they are not related to. Someone who knows them well but has an outside perspective. There are so many variables with the Difficult Mind that having that outside person is what can get everyone through the day.

 

The Siblings Person

Our kids are still really young (5, 2.5, 8 months) so they don’t have a “person” quite yet. However, we try really hard, especially with our 5 year old, to encourage outside relationships. For our daughters this means there are a couple Jr. High girls that they just love. We try really hard to have those girls babysit or invite them over or just spend a few extra minutes talking to them when we are out and about.

These girls bring a little bit of normal to my girls. They love them no matter what kind of day it has been at our house. They also know them well enough to ask more personal questions and engage them in their interests.

As the siblings of our son grow we hope that they will have a close friend who will be willing to understand the hard stuff in their life and not run away from it. We also hope that each of our kids will find an adult mentor that will breathe new life and excitement into them when our home life is so hard.

 

The Difficult Minds Person

Right now the person for our son is his therapist. He trusts, admires and listens to the therapist. He knows the therapist cares for him no matter what kind of week it has been.

This thought made me both sad and a little hopeful. Since my son struggles with loneliness I am glad that right now he has a person, even if it is a therapist. I am also grateful that there are men and women who dedicate their lives to loving kids like my son. Often a therapist is the only link between my son and hope.

I do hope that as our son matures, he will find a friend or two who will accept him for who he is and be kind and compassionate enough to push him when he needs it.

 

My Person

As much as I love my husband he is not my person! In order to keep our marriage alive and healthy we each need to have someone outside our home that hears us and cares for us in the midst of this crazy life.

I feel doubly blessed because I feel like I have lots of persons. I am a part of a community of moms who are amazing. They have done everything from my dishes to emergency childcare. They aren’t scared of our kind of crazy and they often know what I need when I don’t. I would have never survived this past Wednesday if it had not been for each one of them.

The circle does get smaller as the Difficult Mind gets harder. Just like I won’t share every bit of ugly here on this blog, I don’t want to really do that in a big group either. I want my son to feel like his dignity is in tact with the adults he knows and interacts with.

There are two women in particular that are my people.

One of them has been to the depths and back with me. She has seen it all. She has been scared with me and for me. She has cried with me and held me when I cried. The beauty of what we have lies deeply in our history together.

Then there’s another mom, just like me, right where I live. Sure her child is a different age and struggles with similar but not the exact things as our family, but she knows. And she hopes. She has coffee with me and tells me her stories, she speaks the hard truth when I need to hear it. She isn’t afraid to be sad and happy or angry and forgiving all at once. It really is amazing grace to have her as a person on this journey.

We all need people. We were not created to be alone. Whatever path you are on, reach out to your person today. Tell them they are loved and cherished, they need to hear it just as much as you do.

 

“Hope and sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”

There’s Rescue: Even on this hard journey I feel amazingly loved. It is taking everything in me not to list out the many women (and some men) who support me on this road.  Community has a deep place on this hard journey and I couldn’t ask for a better one.

There’s Not: While I feel loved, I think finding a person is much harder for all my kids. Their limited understanding of what is happening in our family makes it hard. I want to pray more that they will each have a person on this journey.

Today I am thankful for friends. Acts of love, kindness and compassion have been poured out into my life without me ever saying a word. My community is its own miracle and I will be forever grateful.

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(31 Days) A Difficult Mind: Day 23, Marriage

October 23, 2014

I’ve joined the 31 Day Blogging Challenge…31 Days of exploring what it means to live with a neurodiverse child. #write31days

By Darcy Demmel

By Darcy Demmel

“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… “ ~The Princess Bride

Yes, this blessed arrangement of marriage.  This dream within a dream.

That is, until the honeymoon phase ends, day to day life begins and then children. Children are a great joy and a great trial in marriage. Complicate parenting by adding in a Difficult Mind and marriage takes on a whole new look you never even imagined.

Yesterday when I was talking about siblings, that took a lot of deep breathing and faith to get through. This topic of marriage…well, let’s just say I’ve deleted this twice.

BUT, marriage is never perfect. When two imperfect people enter into a relationship there are bound to be things that are imperfect. We all have them. If you are married I’d put money on the fact that there is at least one thing you and your spouse struggle with. So, since we all have a little bit of marital imperfection happening, I feel like maybe this is a safe place to come together, be truthful and encourage something beautiful.

Some things to know about us…

  • We place a high value on our marriage. Our ultimate commitment is to God but right after that it is to each other.
  • Since we anticipate being together for more than the 18ish years our children will each live with us, marriage is a priority over our children.
  • Our marriage has ups and downs like any marriage. Our situation is not unique. Anytime you add children into your home, your marriage is affected.

I enjoy being married to my husband. Through dating and that early married life the ebb and flow of marriage seemed rhythmic and normal. It was easy to have conversations, make decisions and plan ahead together.

As our family grew by one things began to change. We were too tired to talk, had no idea what decisions needed to be made first and planning seemed impossible.

When we began to struggle in parenting my reaction was that obviously we were doing it wrong. If you want to put your spouse on edge tell them that while you appreciate them arranging their school schedule around your job and your sons needs, they are doing it all wrong.

Rookie mistake. I didn’t know any better. I was working 50+ hours a week. I had no idea what it was like to be with our son day in and day out. My husband deserved much more credit than I gave him then and even if I didn’t understand, I could have at least been respectful.

Lesson #1: Having a difficult child makes it easy to place blame on your spouse.

My husband is thankfully a very forgiving guy. When I finally was able to spend more time with our son I had to go back and apologize for all the blame I had placed on him. It was not his fault that parenting this child was hard. There was no one to point a finger at, this was just life.

When we finally were on a path that was helping our son we hit another wall. It was as if  we couldn’t see each other. We had therapy to consider and new financial obligations to meet and work and instruction that needed to happen at home. There was no “us” there was only “him”.

Lesson #2: It is easy to lose site of your priorities when every voice in our life says your child is the ONLY thing that matters.

Eventually we realized that we were living in the same house but really didn’t spend much time together. We started making date night a priority, saying yes to more time with friends and really being aware of our own actions. There were, and still are, days that I am wrapped up in helping our son, and that is okay. But now, on the other side of those long days, I have to make it a priority to make time and space to connect with my husband. Some weeks this is a lot harder than it sounds.

You would think if we were not blaming each other for our son’s difficulties and we had our priorities in the right place and we were spending time together that we would be amazing communicators and generally on the same page. Don’t place that bet in Vegas, you would lose.

When we were together we very rarely talked about our son, the help he needed, how we are feeling about it or what we were going to do to move forward. We talked about a lot of other things and that was great, but when it came time to make a decision or to choose how we were going to parent in a certain situation, for a period of time, there was a lot of conflict.

Lesson #3: You can’t ignore the hard stuff.

For a while it was easier to ignore everything that was going on. We would sit and hear what the therapist had to say every six weeks, we would nod our heads in agreement, and when we got home we would put the things into place that we heard or we thought important. And that was great, except for I was implementing half the things and my husband the other half and neither of us did any of it the same way. Instead of using our relationship to help our son, by ignoring what was difficult and forgetting the confidence we had in each other, we actually made it harder.

I’m thankful for the therapist who sat across from us and said “So, what are you guys doing to keep yourself healthy?” We couldn’t really think of anything. We were still spending time together when we could but we weren’t really talking about anything important. From that point on it was almost like we had permission. Permission to be scared about what was happening, permission to not know what the right answer was, permission to love each other anyway even if it was from a place of being exhausted.

I won’t say that we’ve mastered marriage in the midst of a difficult child. What I will say is that at least were aware, and we are trying. A few weeks ago after a significantly difficult rough patch I grabbed the junior high babysitter and took my husband out in our little town for an evening, just the two of us. We talked about baseball and work and life and kids. When it came to our difficult son we were able to share the things that were making it sad and hard for us, but we were also able to celebrate how far we’ve come and hold onto the hope that things would get better.

Sometimes, marriage isn’t about being perfect, it’s just about being better. I’m thankful for a partner that always wants to make it better.
“Hope and sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”

There’s Rescue: We have come a very long way in parenting a difficult child together. In the most recent six months I feel like we have never been as much on the same page as we are right now. Both in marriage and in parenting.

There’s Not: We still get frustrated with one another when things are tense and difficult. Even if I don’t say it out loud, some days I still blame or have mixed up priorities. I’m always hoping for that place of better.

Today I am thankful for husband who loves enough to make me a priority and still cares enough to love our son so deeply.

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(31 Days) A Difficult Mind: Day 22, Siblings

October 22, 2014

I’ve joined the 31 Day Blogging Challenge…31 Days of exploring what it means to live with a neurodiverse child. #write31days

Kids

So I’ve been avoiding this particular topic for awhile. There are so many questions and feelings and unknowns, but since I am being brave this month and in doing so also want to be honest.

In an attempt to not be overwhelmed or get overwhelmed myself I’m going to talk about siblings and the Difficult Mind Q&A style…maybe we will all learn something!

Our son is the oldest of 4. We are Boy (7) Girl (5) Girl (2.5) Boy (8 months). It is definitely never boring and these kids are each unique and fun and different in their own way. It really is fun to get to know each of them!

What is the relationship like between the Difficult Mind and the other kids?

It depends on the day! These kids can be like any other kids. From petty fights about who gets to sit where to sweet moments of taking turns and playing together.

What does the Difficult Mind think about his siblings?

My Difficult Minded son often views the other kids more as objects than people. His mind doesn’t associate people with emotions, it only associates people with actions. If a person doesn’t like something they can DO something to change it or if they are sad about something they can DO something to make themselves feel better. The idea that doing something could hurt someone’s feelings doesn’t come into play for him.

What do the other kids think about the Difficult Minded child?

He has always been their sibling so they don’t know any differently. They do get frustrated with him quicker than they do with each other. Overall they don’t view him as different and I am so grateful for that.

How do you think having siblings affects the Difficult Mind?

My experience is that while it is hard, it is really good for our son to have siblings. When he is with us he is forced into a lot of uncomfortable situations that he would just avoid anywhere else. Unlike other social situations we love him unconditionally. If he makes a huge misstep at school there are consequences from his teacher and that indirectly shapes how his peers feel about him. At home if he makes a misstep we can correct him, have a do-over and remind him that no matter what he does we love him for who he is.

How do you think having a Difficult Minded sibling affects your other kids?

I do think it can be hard on the other kids. There are many moments I feel very sad that the other kids have been exposed to such a difficult environment so young.

On the other hand, they are already so compassionate and understanding. Even when our son didn’t feel well the other day our daughter got him a blanket, water bottle and a book to comfort him. I anticipate that having a Difficult Mind as a sibling will grow their understanding and acceptance of people different than themselves.

Why have more kids if you already had one that was struggling?

This answer is specific to us and what we feel we have been called to and can handle as a family. At its inception we didn’t know everything we do now about our son but even then, I don’t think we would have done things differently.

As a couple and a family we feel like we have been called to love each kid that comes into this family. We have the capacity to manage the kids we have right now physically, emotionally and spiritually. We have 4 kids and we are thankful!

Moving Forward…

One of our biggest jobs as parents is to develop our children into the people they were created to be. For all our children this means being intentional in knowing their personality, emotional needs, physical limits and spiritual understanding.

Each child is different! In our limited human capacity we are all flawed. As my son struggles with emotions and social interactions he has a very strong grasp on who he is and understands deep spiritual concepts. My other kids will be different.

My hope is I will love each child uniquely, just as they were meant to be loved.

 

 

“Hope and Sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”

There’s Rescue: By having siblings my son is learning how to interact with the world. By having a difficult sibling my other children are learning compassion.

There’s Not: When one child needs a lot of attention there are times when I feel that life is really unfair for the other kids. I have to rely on grace to intervene and help the other kids know in other special ways that they too are deeply loved.

Today I am thankful for families. In families we are able to be fully accepted as ourselves and forgiven but still deeply loved when we fall short.

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(31 Days) A Difficult Mind: Day 21, Maybe I’m Overreacting

October 21, 2014

I’ve joined the 31 Day Blogging Challenge…31 Days of exploring what it means to live with a neurodiverse child. #write31days

Popcorn

“The Autism Spectrum is just a trend, people are just looking for a label.”

“A lot of boys are energetic, he just needs more discipline.”

“He’s great when he’s with me, I think you’re just overreacting.”

On good days, I wonder these exact same things.

Maybe big pharma is just trying to make money so I’ve been scared into thinking my son needs help? Maybe he’s just being a 7 year old boy? Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m seeing things that just aren’t there?

Then we have a bad day. It is then that I am reminded that I am my sons only mom and it is up to me to care for him in the best way possible.

The Autism Spectrum is real. While science hasn’t figured out why some kids brains don’t organize correctly, science has figured out that kids on this spectrum aren’t “normal” in their brain organization. So we don’t know why spectrum disorders occur but they do. We can’t deny the existence of Autism Spectrum Disorder just because we can’t explain its origin.

And sure, there are fear mongers in the Autism Spectrum conversation who do try and push products or therapies or cures. As a parent it is my job to wade through what is actual help and what is marketing. It’s not an easy task!

Boys are energetic! Even our 7.5 month old son is more energetic than our girls were at that age. I think that boy energy is priceless and we should channel it well! However, when it comes to our son we have more than an energy issue. For most kids on the spectrum it is the combination of “more” that puts them on the spectrum. For our son he does have more energy than the average boy but he also has more anxiety, more anger, more attention deficit, more violence, more appetite, more social issues and more frustration than the average boy his age. One or two of these things would make him “normal” but all of them together, well, that’s why he’s on the spectrum.

Yes, he can be a model student, encouraging youth group kid and fun nephew/cousin/grandchild. However, those are limited and structured interactions. In almost all those scenarios our son is doing things he enjoys with people who can give him undivided attention. As all parents know, that’s just not realistic when it comes to day to day activities. I have a husband who travels for work, 3 other kids in addition to my son and the day to day tasks of running a home and a small business. While I want to parent my son well, he can not be the constant center of attention in our home. So yes, I have no doubt he has been great for you, and I am so glad, I want his friends and family to see his good side. Just remember that you haven’t asked him to do hard things like dress himself, complete his handwriting homework or share with his siblings. Those every day moments, surrounded by a family who loves unconditionally, that’s where both brokenness, struggle and hopefully healing happen.

To those parents who are struggling with difficult children, remember that loving them is the first and best thing you can do. Love speaks in a way that therapy never will. I also want to encourage you, it is okay. It is okay to have your child evaluated and be told they are normal and just going through a phase. It is also entirely okay to have your child evaluated to find they need some additional help. Either way, you’ve done your part, you have advocated with your whole heart for the well being of your child.

For the doubters, it is okay to doubt. I’ve been through this process and I still doubt on some days. Be wise, your doubt does not give you a platform to be unloving or unkind. Doubt away, but love well.

For the parents and friends and family of a child on the spectrum, be encouraged. You are not alone on this journey. If there’s anything I have learned in the last 21 days it’s that more families are silently walking this road of spectrum disorders than I ever thought possible. Keep up this hard work of leading and loving and supporting. Your sacrificial act of love in walking with this child could be the catalyst that molds them into the amazing person they were meant to be.

 

 

“Hope and Sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”

There’s Rescue: Instead of being discouraged by doubt, we’ve been motivated to learn, move forward and make hard decisions.

There’s Not: There are days when I wonder if we are doing the right thing. I have to trust that we are doing the best we can.

Today I am thankful for all the positive small steps we have made and all the small steps to come.

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(31 Days) A Difficult Mind: Day 20, Trust

October 20, 2014

I’ve joined the 31 Day Blogging Challenge…31 Days of exploring what it means to live with a neurodiverse child. #write31days

image

Trust requires a huge amount of bravery.

By nature, I am a high risk taker and discerningly trusting in a lot of situations. I think it is okay if things are hard and if we really want to love well there are parts of ourselves and our lives that we entrust to others.

This is well and good as it applies to me personally. When I first became a parent I had very little fear of leaving my son with people we trusted or taking him places, like school, where another adult was in charge.

Then I went through a phase where I was terrified. I trusted no one.

No one could take care of my son like I could. No one knew what he needed like I did. No one could help him and comfort him in the same way I did.

Some of this distrust grew out of experience. I’ve been called home more than once by a babysitter because my son can’t be managed. I’ve seen teachers react to my son inappropriately, even after I’ve tried to gently explain where he is in his development. After an intense season of this I just gave up. Why trust people when it all comes back to me anyway?

If you want to isolate people, stop trusting them. Stop trusting that they love you enough to care. Stop trusting that they really want to help. Stop trusting that they might have some life experience or skill to offer.

At the point I stopped trusting I started drowning.

I carried the burden of my son alone. I wasn’t comfortable leaving him with a babysitter, even family. I was skeptical of teachers and took great pains to be overly involved. I said no to a lot of personal opportunities because I didn’t trust people to care enough about me. And then I was alone.

I still knew people and waved hello and seemed social and involved. But no one was being let in and I was not letting myself out.

We as humans were created to be in relationships with one another. We are meant to love, encourage, support, give, build up and hold accountable. In relationships we are reminded how deep and wide love really is and how amazing grace appears.

So I took baby steps back into trusting.

I started with my husband. We talked, we made a plan, I let him in and let go. He has taken on the responsibilities of managing my sons therapy each week he goes. Those first few weeks were so hard. I wanted to be there. To see, hear and know, but so does my husband. He’s a great dad and loves our son deeply, I have to trust him.

Then I started with a friend. I began to tell her what it was like, the ugly hard things on this journey. I sent texts when I was in despair and didn’t try and make the bad days look pretty. She knows me better than almost anyone and she prayed. She sent encouraging words. She checked in on me and told me to snap out of it when self pity poured in. She loves me, she loves my son, in trusting her I am able to both be loved and give love in a new way.

I started trusting those outside my circle. Teachers I didn’t know well, church volunteers I only knew from a distance, therapists who were new and unknown. If someone is able and willing to give their time and energy to work with my son, they deserve my respect. In respecting them for their own gifts and abilities I am learning to trust them.

I’d love to say that I’ve come to a calm place of being discerning and then more trusting when it comes to my son, but I haven’t. I still arrange special babysitting for him so a college sitter doesn’t get stuck in a bad situation, I still quickly engage teachers and volunteers and ask what they are doing with my son and judge if it’s what is best, I still get nervous when my husband takes my son to therapy and they are gone for hours.

Trust is a process. It requires me to bravely engage every single day with the people who love me and love my son. Trust begs me to fall to my knees and pray.

Pray for discernment. Pray for insight. Pray for the people who care for my son. Pray for faith. Pray for comfort from the great comforter and wisdom from the giver of life.

In saying I believe in God I have to trust that there are people in our life meant to be a part of our sons story.

We believe that our son is meant to be a lively member on this earth. If we are going to do our part to get there, we have to trust.

Trust requires us to be brave. Bravery requires us to have faith.

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we can not see.”

“Hope and sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”

There’s Rescue: There are amazing people in our life that we can trust. My husband is totally involved, our sons teacher is going the extra mile to include our son, we have friends who have worked with children like our son who love him as their own, we have family who really do want the best for our son and willingly follow our lead to provide what he needs.

There’s Not: In my flesh I fall short. I let fear creep in, I push people out, I can let one bad experience taint weeks of interactions. Holding on to what I know to be true is a hard task.

Today I am thankful that there are people who still trust me and love me even when I have pushed them away. Greater love has no one than a friend who sacrifices himself for you.

Linking up with Unforced Rhythms today…

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(31 Days) A Difficult Mind: Day 19, Rest

October 19, 2014

I’ve joined the 31 Day Blogging Challenge…31 Days of exploring what it means to live with a neurodiverse child. #write31days

 

Glove

“Your life sounds really stressful.”

“That sounds like a lot of work and very tiring.”

“I bet it gets really loud and crazy at your house.”

Yes, yes and yes. Our life is a little stressful, a lot of work, very tiring and loud doesn’t even cover it on some days. These comments are often followed with statements like “I don’t know how you do it all the time” or “I could never do what you do”.

While I appreciate that there is some recognition of all the effort it takes to do what we do, let’s have a moment of truth.

It isn’t always easy. I don’t always enjoy it. There are days where my attitude is awful. Follow through on things we are trying to implement doesn’t always happen. There are days I binge watch BBC TV Series (Sherlock, Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife anyone?) just like everyone else.

There are days when my response to my kids is less than patient and my voice is more than loud. Occasionally the consequences I give are to much and the encouragement to little.

We are all running the race of life. Races are tiring. Sometimes I just want to sit by the side of the road and catch my breath or give up all together and call it quits.

Many parents and care givers do give up. It’s easier. It is simpler to ignore than it is to engage. I absolutely understand why people running the race while they try and bring along a Difficult Minded child quit. I have wanted to more than once.

Then there is rest.

It is impossible to give and give and give if we haven’t taken the time to rest. We will burn out without rest, we will give up without renewal, we will quit when we don’t take time to look up from our race and know there is victory ahead.

Rest looks differently for everyone. My version of rest has a couple layers:

-Sleep. Actually, naps. Some days by the time 9am rolls around I’ve fought the physical battle to get my son to school and I am exhausted. I could use the afternoon rest time for the other kids to work, read, clean – a thousand other things but, if I want to run my race well, I have to stop and physically refuel. An hour nap on our living room couch without any feelings of guilt can be exactly what I need to not just make it through the day but also go the extra mile.

-Retreat. Leaving my home, alone, is an amazing experience for me. A morning running errands alone or an evening of coffee and cupcakes with a friend calls me back to who I am, my heart. Not only is my son not defined by his Difficult Mind, I am not defined by my son. I have hobbies and interests and friends and life outside of my struggle with my son. I am a uniquely made and lovingly called woman with a purpose. Leaving my home alone reminds me of that!

-Travel. I grew up traveling, it’s part of what makes me who I am and it speaks to me and energizes me in a big way. When I’ve done all the sleeping and retreating I can but still can’t see the sun through the rain, I travel. We aren’t wealthy so I’m not taking European vacations but I do travel to the cities near me and visit museums, restaurants and gardens. I often go alone just for a break but even with others I enjoy a great sense of renewal and beauty in traveling.

This thing we do is hard. Being “ON” all the time wasn’t what I signed up for when I became a parent. Yet here we are.

We have this son and this marriage and these therapists and this time. We only get one shot at making the best decisions we can with the knowledge and resources we have. I want to do my best to give our son and everyone he interacts with the best chance at having good relationships.

To get there, I have to have rest. Physical, spiritual, mental and emotional rest.

So yes, this thing we are trying to do is hard, tiring, takes work, is stressful and absolutely gets loud.

I make a choice every day to do it. I make a choice to be the best advocate, mom, friend and wife I can for my son.

This means I also choose rest, I choose to be whole from the inside out so that my son has a chance to be whole from his inside out too.

 

“Hope and sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”

There’s Rescue: I have a husband who helps me get the rest I need. I live near family who is always willing to pitch in when they are called on. I have friends that call me out when I need rest and do what they can to help me get it.

There’s Not: I go too long between times of rest. I over estimate my capacity and then fall short when it comes to our son. I’m still learning what it means to rest well.

Today I am thankful for the ability to rest, even when it comes in small amounts, it always makes a difference.

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(31 Days) A Difficult Mind: Day 18, Selfishness

October 18, 2014

I’ve joined the 31 Day Blogging Challenge…31 Days of exploring what it means to live with a neurodiverse child. #write31days

By Darcy Demmel

By Darcy Demmel

 

At dinner we go around and talk about our day. Everyone is asked what the best part of their day was and what the hardest part of their day was.

On this particular night our son was telling us about the best part of his day which had something to do with earning invincibility powers on his Lego game. We continued around the table and as our 2.5 year old talked, our son started back in with more details about invincibility. In a 60 second span we had to ask him 4 different times to please let our daughter finish.

Kids interrupt, it happens, but with our sons Difficult Mind he just keeps talking until his thought is complete. It doesn’t matter who is listening, where he is or how he might be inconveniencing someone. I’ve had him follow me around the house while I dry, fold and put away entire loads of laundry. He doesn’t even flinch.

Selfishness for personal gain is one thing. When the Difficult Mind is being selfish, they don’t actually know they are being selfish.

This is one of those things I wish I could explain better and that I could be more patient with.

I’ve talked about our son only being able to experience one thing at a time. Because of that if he has a thought, he has to complete it.

I know, put my foot down already, just interrupt him and tell him to stop, I’m the authority figure after all. Yeah, that doesn’t really work. The outcomes of interrupting a thought vary but they usually fall into one of these categories:

  • Instant Anger. “You don’t ever listen to me. You don’t care about anything I ever say.”
  • Ignoring. He will just talk over you.
  • Crying. Sometimes the talking is a cover for anxiety that has built up. If you stop the thought he may take a sharp left turn, start crying and tell you something entirely different. While I want to hear what is really going on, this is not a good way to approach it.

If he keeps talking we have an entirely different set of problems:

  • Completing a task. It is quite hard to manage a sibling dispute, take a phone call or help a sibling with homework when someone is following you around talking.
  • Feeling left out. If our son is always talking his siblings feel like they are not as important. They can’t ask a question and receive and answer, can’t have a conversation with me and can’t even share at family dinner without their brothers selfishness stepping in. His constant talking automatically makes him the center of attention.
  • Annoyance. There are 6 people in our house, if one person feels the need to constantly talk and be the center of attention annoyance sets in pretty quickly. Annoyance leads to impatience and impatience leads to frustration and frustration either comes out as anger or requires immense amounts of self-control.

So how do you live with a constantly selfish person when they don’t understand the concept of selfishness?

As humans, we are all selfish. We all have that tendency to do what we want to do when we want to do it. Assessing each situation and owning up to our own selfishness will help us quit erroneously pointing the fingers at others when we are really the problem.

We try to guide. We’ve adopted a stance of teaching all our children character traits. To combat selfishness with our son we spend a lot of time talking about self-control. Self-control means having a choice. Choosing to listen when I ask him to wait, choosing to be calm instead of reacting harshly. There isn’t a strong connection there yet, but we are trying.

Be a truth teller. Instead of moving straight to frustration we have to take the steps to be detailed truth tellers to our son. We have to say the words “It hurts your sisters feelings when she doesn’t have a chance to share her story, you need to give her a turn” or “I cannot listen to you right now because I am helping your sister with homework, you will have to wait.” Most kids understand taking turns and being respectful at a certain age but our son does not. He has not shown us he understands that his actions affect how people think, feel and react.

Give grace. This goes back to being able to accept that our son is actually struggling. No amount of teaching, telling, guiding or training will change parts of who he is. Being selfish is one of the biggest hurdles he faces. As he faces these hurdles we have to give grace when he trips up and falls. It doesn’t mean we give in and just let him have his way but it does mean there are times we do, and we do so gracefully and willingly.

As a family who values service and compassion, selfishness may be the biggest tension we face.

However, having a selfish by default son won’t stop us from loving him for who he is and helping him find his place and calling in the world.

 

 

“Hope and Sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”

There’s Rescue: There are moments where our son is easily guided and he chooses self-control over selfishness. I am deeply grateful for each of those moments because they are rare.

There’s Not: Compassion is something that we can show and teach but we cannot make our son adopt that value. My heart breaks when I see him so deep into his own little world that he cannot see the people around him.

Today I am looking my own selfishness in the mirror and making a commitment to love more and demand less.

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