I am failing my kid.
Without question, this is how I feel… and I am not alone. At least two other moms have said this same phrase to me in the last 48 hours.
Those who have followed some of my story know I have an incredibly sweet, high energy child. He is beautiful and bright and a boundless ball of blinding, beaming bounciness. He is Joy.
Imagine Joy. What does it feel like? What type of child would Joy be? If I close my eyes and see joy, I see a child spinning, arms out, wind flowing through hair. I feel the sun on me and laughter in my soul escaping through my open, giggling mouth.
This is the spirit of the child I am entrusted to turn into a capable, controllable, considerate adult…and I’m failing.
Socially-speaking, the logical way to control joy is to put it out… but despite my understanding of expectations, I cannot extinguish my child’s spirit.
Socially-speaking, the logical way to control joy is to put it out… but despite my understanding of expectations, I cannot extinguish my child’s spirit. Because he yearns to please, he is aware of his inability to conform, and in little kid language he expresses it.
“My brain is going crazy.”
“The focus oils are wearing off.”
And now lately his clues to his inner world and struggles are changing to these…
“He says he hates me.”
“He hit me.”
“I had a bad day.”
And here we are into a hard week at school where I am starting to hear that he isn’t being himself at all. He even hit a kid.
This is not Joy.
After hearing he hit a child, he got the mean-mom lecture on our expectations and was sent to his room. He felt bad for most the night and walked with his head down, eyes sad. Before he left the next day, we reviewed who he needed to apologize to and that we do not hit. It was going to be a good day.
Before noon, it was clear from school reports, it was not a good day as he had already pushed and hit a child. How? He is my kind-hearted child. What is going on with him? Why can I not help him control this? How can I not find what he needs? I am failing him… again. One step forward, two back.
Like we all do with WebMD when we believe we are dying of an unknown ailment, I instantly googled a few articles (Psychology Today and Dr. Sears),
took in as gospel-truth considered their insights and talked with far too many friends who humored me by assuring me it would be okay – my child was normal.
Yet, it didn’t feel normal. I felt like I was the worst mother in the world because I couldn’t help him and now he was going grow up to be a punk/bully who hit other children, wouldn’t be liked and would probably end up completely adjusting his personality to be recluse, with no spark. Joy, suffocated. Hardball was not working.
Joy, suffocated. Hardball was not working.
Two hours of a conversation condensed now into a sentence, essentially, a kid told him he hated him and that my son was stupid/dumb because his skin/hair were not the color said child preferred. When questioned, my son said it made him feel “sad” and he hit the kid because, well, at five years old, what other way would he respond? At thirty-five years old, I was not sure how to respond to this.
This all leads to a which-way-is-up-or-down type situation.
Although my son did not respond in an appropriate way, he heard a person state that based on color, he was hated and it caused a reaction. Something inside of him said, “that is not okay,” and a response took over when the words failed. Please do not misinterpret; I am not condoning physical assault as a response. More conversations will follow but that is just it – more conversations will follow. This is growing; this is teaching; this is creating a dialogue and not shutting him off to stew on feelings and be confused on the fact he called out hatred (yes, in not the best of ways…remember, five years old not thirteen) but was now in trouble for it.
So are we failing?
Are we failing when we research? Are we failing when we talk to friends to try to figure out an alternative approach? Are we failing when we take a look inside to see what it is we need to do differently to solicit a new response? Are we failing when we are teaching five year olds that skin color doesn’t dictate if a person is a friend and how we react appropriately to statements that judge based on an appearance factor outside of a person’s control? Are we failing when we sit down with our children to talk about the why’s… why the child maybe said what he did; why we don’t use our fists to solve the issue; why skin color is not a friendship factor; why…why…why?
And if we are failing, if we are screwing up on the way to attempting to get it right, if we notice our approach was poor and our technique needs adjustment and we do just that… doesn’t that follow the Mickey Rooney quote “you always pass failure on the way to success?”
“You always pass failure on the way to success.“
There’s no manual made just for your child and even if you had one, it probably wouldn’t work with the next. What we hope is the lesson will make its way into their mind so they can think through situations and come to the best response possible. When I told my daughter the situation, she instantly said, “that is stupid. Skin color doesn’t matter. It is just skin – it’s a thing. It isn’t a person.” About a year ago, she made me an apology card after being especially hyper that read, “We will figure it out. We are family and we will figure out what works for us.”
Maybe that is the lesson – maybe that is the success. Figuring it out.. figuring out what doesn’t work for your family and what does. Figuring out what shuts down the conversation and what grows the dialogue/person. Figuring out what allows someone to look at a situation and say, “I am going to respond to this with Love.”
You see, my child is Joy; he feels like summer and just like the intense summer storms that roll in, so can his reactions. Our job is to teach him how to respond with the best tools to ride out the waves of energy – positive and negative both – so in the end, his soul remains a portrait of joy.
In doing so, I am going to fail him time and time again.
And that is okay.