So this week, along with moving and accepting a writing gig, we also had both kids in to see the dentist. Of course in our house, the dentist visits are quite the ordeal. So much so, that they both had to go under general anesthesia for their procedures. Oy. Reading the list of possible complications was like listening to one of those ads where the medicine they are selling will have side effects galore, and MIGHT cure the one thing that ails. (Restless Leg Syndrome, anyone?)
Watching my kids as they went under and watching them come out of GA, it got me to thinking. (Shocking, I know.) Thanks to powerful narcotics, here’s the parenting lessons gleaned from the day:
1. I am not in control. Ouch. Mistakenly, I often assume that Jake thinks the same way as I do. We forget as parents that kids haven’t developed the ability to reason yet. And, I’ve discovered, this point is exaggerated to the nth degree in my son. In his book, What Your Explosive Child Is Trying to Tell You: Discovering the Pathway from Symptoms to Solutions, Douglas A. Riley puts it like this:
“Explosive children are prone to make assumptions about what is going to happen in the near future. These assumptions – their mental road maps of the future-can be like little “movies” of what they think is going to happen next. Road maps get elevated in their minds to the status of 100 percent certain, totally gonna happen probabilities. When what the child believes is about to happen does not come to pass, his road map disintegrates. Parents who say that their child behaves as if his world has ended because they stopped at the drugstore when the child thought they were going straight to the grocery store do not understand just how right they are. When a child’s road map does not come true, his world DOES cease to exist for a few moments. The resulting dramatic tantrum shows us how overwhelmed some children can become when faced with anything unexpected.”
Add in a shot (which all kids love!), extreme fear of dentists, doctors, and people messing with him, and voila! Primo meltdown! While I am not in control, my job as his mom is to help him navigate those maps and to understand that his world is, in fact, not coming to an end. Some days this is easier than others.
2. I am not alone. In response to my previous post, An Answered Prayer, I received calls and comments with other parents identifying some of the same issues. It’s been a somewhat frustrating journey in that we struggle to find some kind of label, because if we have the label, we can then begin to “fix it”. Not that we would wish this anxiety/explosive behavior on anyone or their child, there is some measure of comfort in knowing we aren’t alone in this. While in the waiting room, we chatted with another mother whose child exhibited many of the same behaviors as ours. In an odd way, it was comforting to share anecdotes and have her nod, and say, “Yep. Been there!” It’s a validation thing. I’m not crazy. I’m not a bad parent. He is who he is and I have to gain tools to help him navigate the world. And the extra bonus was that her son was a year older – she assured me that while her son was not without challenges, the growth between 4 and 5 was enormous and the recovery time from a meltdown kept getting smaller and smaller. Can I get a hallelujah for a light at the end of the tunnel?!
3. Judge not, lest ye be judged. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. A little grace and compassion for that stressed out mama in the store goes a long (LONG) way. It’s too easy to make snap judgements based on a 3 minute interlude we see in an aisle. We don’t know what they are going through. For the most part, parents are doing the best they can. As Maya Angelou says, “When we know better, we do better”. Let’s all do better and extend a little grace.
4. Really. You aren’t in control. Yep. I did need this one twice, but for different reasons. When your child is ill, it can be so scary. Granted, this little adventure was a dental visit (fillings, crowns, cleaning, etc.), but its not such a stretch to imagine what could go wrong, complications or worse. We are fortunate to have had expert care for our children. Too often (especially with military healthcare) we are but widgets on an assembly line. I never once felt that way during this adventure. I had to trust them to care for our kids. I. Am. Not. In. Control. (Perhaps I might just be CC’d on the memo?!)
5. Even with the same gene pool, same parents, and same environment, my kids are individuals. It’s amazing to me how different they are. But more than that, with the same basic procedure done for them both, how they were so true to their personalities during recovery. Hannah was her usual flibbertigibbet-self and asking for popsicles shortly after her procedure. Jake was sleepy and we had difficulty keeping him awake for the 2 hours after. He was irritated (ticked off!) that we kept waking him up, over and over and over! The next day, he still was a bit sleepy, not quite himself. She adapts well, recovers quickly. He needs a bit more love, a bit more time, and a lot more patience.
6. Play. I realized the next day how much I need to just play. Not all the time, there are times when dishes need to be done, the checkbook needs balancing, etc., but when they are sick, I go into Mama Bear/Protector/Caretaker of Sick Baby mode. When in this mode, my agenda just goes on back burner and I play. I’m present with them, not thinking of the 5000 other things I “should” be doing. I need to do more of that.
Not too bad, for a day (ALL DAY LONG) at the dentist. I am thankful that I get to be their mom. Despite any given challenges, I’m grateful my son was not born to someone who wasn’t willing to gain the tools to raise him without anger, violence, or ridicule. There are times I want to beat my head against the wall, to be sure. But I am grateful still. Somedays I think our kids “raise” us as much as we raise them. I wouldn’t want to be raised by any other 2 kids on the planet!