I still remember the day like it was last week. It was after school and my son and I had stopped at the store to pick up a few things for dinner. We were, of course, in a hurry, had to get to karate class. As we were walking out of the store he dropped his stack of 60 football cards. Scattered. All 60 of them.
I thought to myself, “Why does he have these stupid football cards? He’s only 7 years old. We don’t even watch football in our house. Why on Earth would the teacher give them to him?”
As he started to pick them up he took his time to arrange them so they are all facing the same direction. One card at a time. “This is going to take forever and we don’t have forever. We have to get to karate.”, I thought to myself. I immediately start to get angry and try to “help” him and then it struck me. I would have done the same thing. I would have taken the time to make sure they were all in the right order. I would have made sure they were facing the right way. Why? Because it makes me feel grounded and centered. That was when I realized that my son was not so different from me. Yes, he might be diagnosed with a “non-specific learning disability” (whatever that means) and struggles with auditory processing and sensory integration but he really wasn’t that much different from me. The moment I realized that my empathy for him grew.
We discovered over the years that allowing him to learn and develop at his pace led to much greater success than trying to make him conform to benchmarks aligned with his grade in school. I am convinced that giving him that freedom allowed him to develop at a much faster rate than relying solely on formal interventions. Patience, love, and acceptance were the common denominators of his early education. Those aspects allowed him the space to grow and find a level of success that I had prayed so hard he would experience.
Fast forward to high school and I am revisiting that football card lesson of acceptance all over again. I was feeling myself start to push him more. I wanted him in different classes, to think about college, and what it took to get there. I was pushing him to train harder with his swimming in hopes of getting noticed by colleges at some point. Parents always worry about the post-high school years but I was projecting all of my fears for him in the future without being still with the present. I could feel the anxiety build up in my throat almost to the point where I felt I couldn’t breathe properly and couldn’t speak my truth. So I got still. I listened to my heart and heard the message I heard nine years earlier.
Let him be who he is. Embrace him as the individual he is and let him flourish on his own terms.
He is no different from me in that he wants to feel grounded, centered, and accepted and pushing him to do more than he was developmentally ready to was not the way to go. He is an individual and comfortable with who he is as a person and that is all any parent could ever hope for their child. Why couldn’t I be happy with that? He has helped me become more in tune with myself and I am thankful for that gift. I heard someone say once that all relationships are assignments and each one has a lesson to learn. I have so much more to learn from my son and I am grateful for the opportunity.