First he went to school early. Then he had a full day at school. Straight from school he and his dad drove the 50 miles to therapy. An hour therapy session and the 50 mile trek back he walks into my kitchen, nose in a book and plops down.
It’s 6:35pm. It’s past dinner time. Everyone else including the baby has eaten. When I ask him what he wants for dinner he says “nothing”. I know he’s hungry so I push and ask again, he says in an amazingly angry tone “I am not hungry. I am not eating” and then he goes back to his book.
My instinct is to keep pushing. It’s been a long day, he didn’t really have a snack after school and it’s an hour past our normal dinner time. I’m about to demand he put down the book and eat.
Then my husband gives me that look and I go sit on the couch and take a breather.
My experience tells me that he’s in the zone. He can’t stop. His Difficult Mind does not have the ability to shift from the pleasure of reading to the need for food. When he finishes reading he will actually be able to come out of whatever world he’s in and think about hunger and nourishment.
This is where I have to decide if I give in to neurodiversity or fight it.
Parenting is hard and we all have to make decisions. There are 1,000 different methods, styles and traditions. You can’t mainstream parenting, if you could there would be a manual! Even in the same house kids are parented differently.
When we encounter parents who do things differently it is often our instinct to judge, to see our parenting as right and their parenting as wrong. To tell that mom to take a little authority, force more consequences or just chill out.
Put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. Actually just take your shoes off. Get down to nitty gritty bare feet.
How do you choose when to get tough and when to lighten up? When to lead and when to follow? When to make the decision or make the decision theirs?
Without declaring anything specific, our parenting choices come back to our values. How we see our children and their purpose and how we choose to define our parenting role and our purpose, it all comes back to values.
In our house we value a lot of things, among the most important for us is the value of uniqueness. We believe that each human is created uniquely and is distinctly different from anyone else in the world. We also believe that this trait of being unique means each of us has something only we can give or do in the world.
So do I force my son to put down the book and eat dinner? Or does his uniqueness warrant something else?
Tonite we decide no. He’s had a long day, everyone else ate while he was at therapy so he isn’t losing family time, he doesn’t have anything else to do tonite and he is reading, not zoning out unnecessarily or being disruptive. Today we give in.
With a Difficult Mind we face this struggle all day long every day. Give in and avoid the fight or engage, fight the battle and try and steer the course?
The Difficult Mind would love nothing more than to always have its way. The Difficult Mind, when given its way too often, wants more and more control and becomes harder to communicate with, not easier to manage.
Parenting is a great balance of wisdom and reason. Of practicality and training. Of guiding and releasing. Add in a child that is not only unique but also struggling and its the same balancing act but with a blindfold on.
So, while it seems from the outside that my difficult minded son sure gets his way a whole lot, know that decision is never made lightly. Every time we choose to give in, we are running the risk that he will take a mile when all we were trying to give was a gracious inch.
Embrace grace for all the parents you know. Encourage them not in the how to’s but in the whys. Don’t judge their actions, build up their character. In doing so you empower one more parent to parent well.
Today, I gave in. He finished his book, ate well and there wasn’t a battle. He politely got up from the table and had a great evening.
Tomorrow is a different day.
“Hope and sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”
There’s Rescue: Recognizing that giving in does not mean giving up has been a gift of grace. We are able to be more flexible and tune in to our sons needs, giving him what he needs but not always what he wants.
There’s Not: Sometimes there is no clear answer. Standing firm or giving in both seem like unproductive choices. This is a battle we fight every day and it’s exhausting.
Today I am thankful for grace and compassion and mercy. In these things we know that one wrong decision does not ruin everything, peace in the present, hope for the future.